British rail passengers among Europe’s most satisfied

Rail passengers in Britain are statistically among the most satisfied in the whole of Europe, according to new research carried out by the European Commission.

The Eurobarometer survey questioned 26,000 citizens in 26 out of 28 member states (only Cyprus and Malta have no rail network), and found that over three-quarters of UK rail passengers gave either a “high” or “good” rating to the overall level of service.

The survey is conducted to analyse EU citizens’ satisfaction with rail services through a number of rail transport feature in their respective countries.

The UK’s overall satisfaction score (78%) was marginally behind that of Finland (80%). However, the Rail Delivery Group highlighted that Britain’s rail network is much larger and more complex, with “more people using London Victoria station each year (73 million) than the total number of passenger journeys in the whole of Finland (67 million)”.

Among Europe’s major railway networks, satisfaction with punctuality and reliability is greatest in the UK (73%), ahead of France (57%), Germany (48%), Italy (42%) and Poland (36%).

The highest rates of satisfaction for provision of information during train journeys, particularly in the event of delays, are also found in the UK (70%), with France on 43% and Germany 40%.

Separate analysis published by the Office of Rail Regulation reveals that the number of complaints about Britain’s trains fell sharply in the three months to the end of September - the ORR hailed the fall as a trend in a long-term decline in passenger grievances.

Train operators received 26 complaints for every 100,000 customers in the quarter, down 19% on the corresponding period in 2012, the ORR said. In the year to the end of September, there were 31 complaints per 100,000, representing a 10.2% drop on last year.

In the most recent quarter, complaints fell at 11 train operators and rose at eight. Arriva Trains Wales suffered the biggest increase in complaints, coinciding with a drop in punctuality.

Overall, ORR said the number of passenger complaints is down 73.2% on a decade ago - all operators have seen a decrease in the number of complaints each year since 2007, except London Midland and South West Trains.

East Coast and Virgin Trains, the major long-haul operators, experienced the highest rates, although both recorded an improvement on last year’s figure.

More than one in three complaints in the quarter were about late trains, while 7.4% of complaints related to ticketing and refunds. Around 5% of the correspondence recorded as a complaint was categorised as “praise” in the figures.

The ORR said that current methodology “does not capture complaints received through social media platforms,” such as Twitter and Facebook, and said it was exploring ways to include complaints through social media in the future.

“Passenger satisfaction in the UK has reached record levels in recent years, and this latest study shows that in many areas we’re setting the standard for our European neighbours to follow,” said RDG Director General Michael Roberts .

“As record numbers of passengers choose to travel by train we need to improve even further in the coming years. The industry is working hard together to make rail travel more affordable and to offer even better services that meet passengers’ expectations.”

  • This news article was originally published in RAIL 739 on 8 January 2014

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