Major rail firms fail to impress UK commuters

Marion Dakers

FED-UP passengers have hit out at delays, fare rises and cramped carriages in a national poll that found most rail companies are keeping less than half of their customers happy.

Around 16 per cent of passengers suffered delays on their last journey, rising to 26 per cent for commuters, while one in five people travelling to work complained that there was no space to sit down on their last trip, the survey of 7,400 regular travellers by consumer group Which? found.

C2C was the best-rated London commuter service, with passengers giving it top marks for reliability and 66 per cent saying they were satisfied overall. Greater Anglia came last with a score of 34 per cent and an average mark of one out of five for cleanliness and value.

Merseyrail was given the top score in the country, keeping 70 per cent of its passengers satisfied. Eleven of the 19 rail operators in the survey got a satisfaction score of less than 50 per cent.

First Capital Connect, which came 17th in the national part of the Which? poll with just 41 per cent of its customers happy, said it was disappointed but added that it has recently spent £350,000 on extra staff and equipment and had deep-cleaned its carriages.

“Seven rail franchises end in the next two years and we want to see passengers’ experiences put right at the heart of the tender process so companies respond to consumer expectations and can be held to account if they don’t,” said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd in a statement.

The figures give a much gloomier picture of the railways than the biannual national passenger survey, which polls around 50,000 people and found last month that 83 per cent are happy with their journey.

But several bugbears emerged in both surveys. Eight in 10 of the passengers polled by Which? believed fares were too high, while the national passenger survey said just 45 per cent are happy with the price of their ticket – a figure that falls to 41 per cent in London.

The state of the toilets, a lack of seats and poor punctuality were also concerns for passengers in both polls.

“We are always keen to get feedback from customers, whether good or bad, which has helped the industry attract record numbers of passengers and cut complaints by three quarters in a decade,” said a spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, an industry body.