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Rail satisfaction ‘little improved’

File photo dated 30/04/14 of commuters using overground train services waiting to pass through the barriers at Waterloo station, London, during strike by tube workers

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Rail fares have gone up 54% in the last decade – more than double the rate of inflation – but customer satisfaction has gone up just 7%, a survey by consumer watchdog Which? suggests.

Passenger satisfaction over how rail companies handle delays has also improved little in 10 years – up only 4% nationally, the research found.

The findings showed an “unacceptably slow pace of change”, Which? said.

Rail companies said customer satisfaction was “up significantly”.

Which? has tracked customers’ satisfaction with value for money of rail services between spring 2006 and autumn 2015 using the National Rail Passenger Survey.

Commuters expressed the lowest levels of satisfaction, compared with people travelling on business or leisure, at just 34%. This was up 7% from 10 years ago.

Across all train companies, satisfaction with value for money was 48%, up from 41% in 2006.

While some individual operators saw improvements – for example Abellio Greater Anglia, which saw satisfaction levels rise from 28% to 42% – other saw little improvement.

Northern Rail was the only operator which saw customer satisfaction with value for money go down over the decade – from 61% in 2006 to 58% in 2015.

‘Little value’

The operators which scored under 50% were Southern, Southeastern, South West Trains, C2C and Abellio Greater Anglia.

Grand Central, which operates east coast mainline services from London King’s Cross to Sunderland, and Bradford Interchange, scored the highest with 76%.

Some train companies showed an improvement in passenger satisfaction with how delays were dealt with – however, nationally the figure was up only 4% from from 35% in 2006 to 39% in 2015.

The figures came “against a backdrop of rail fare prices over the same period increasing by 54%”, more than double the rate of overall inflation (based on the annual consumer prices index from 2006 to 2015), Which? said.

Its executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Despite repeated claims that the railways are improving, passengers say that rail travel offers little more value for money than a decade ago.

“What’s more, people have found even less of an improvement in the way train companies handle delays.

“This is an unacceptably slow pace of change, so the government must quickly now give the rail regulator the powers and duties it needs to be an independent consumer watchdog that can hold train operators to account.”

Super-complaint

In December, Which? lodged a so-called “super-complaint” to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the industry regulator, arguing that it was too difficult for rail passengers to get compensation.

The ORR investigated, and said millions of rail passengers should be given more help to claim money back when their train is delayed.

It said 80% of passengers did not claim compensation, and called for clearer forms, a national publicity campaign, and better staff training, to encourage claims.

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: “Overall satisfaction among rail passengers is up significantly, according to the latest independent survey by Transport Focus and by a large margin compared with a decade ago.

“But we know that we can do better to run more trains on time more often.”

He said money from fares was helping pay for the “biggest investment programme in the railway’s history”, with more trains, improved stations and “better journeys”.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said the government had “put an end to inflation-busting fare rises” and was spending more than £38 billion to improve the rail network.

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