"They could also tackle specific inequities. In addition, having the courage (and funds) to reform ticketing is crucial."
Value for money rail journeys and the ability to get a seat on a train are by some distance the two biggest priorities for improvements among UK rail passengers, according to the findings from a major independent watchdog.
Transport Focus surveyed 12,800 people for its Rail passengers’ priorities for improvement report and found that the top two spots of the 31 subjects included received 477 and 318 votes, respectively. Making up the top five is more trains arriving on time (178), less frequent major unplanned disruptions (166) and fewer cancelled trains (161).
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus (@TransportFocus), the campaign group that aims to help passengers and road users in the UK get a better deal, said this latest programme of research, which covered 31 areas, gave a really clear picture of passengers’ aspirations on the UK rail network. “The improvements were not costed, nor subject to a cost benefit analysis – we were simply looking at aspirations,” said Smith before asking how these priorities could be turned into reality.
The top 10
1. Price of train tickets offers better value for money (477)
2. Passengers able to get a seat on the train (318)
3. More train arrive on time than happens now (178)
4. Less frequent major unplanned disruptions to your journey (166)
5. Fewer trains cancelled than happens now (161)
6. Trains sufficiently frequent at the times I wish to travel (156)
7. Less disruption due to engineering works (116)
8. Train company keeps passengers informed about delays (115)
9. Free Wi-Fi available on the train (108)
10. Inside of the train is maintained and cleaned to a high standard (99)
On the subject of making journeys better value, Smith conceded that it was “unlikely” that ticket prices would fall, but did suggest that governments and industry could do more to limit or stop what he called “the seemingly perpetual circle of price rises”. “They could also tackle specific inequities. In addition, having the courage (and funds) to reform ticketing is crucial,” he added. “This has become a mess with so called ‘split ticketing’ undermining trust in the system and with vital regulation of fares looking increasingly out of date.” In the survey, making it easier to buy the right ticket was 18th in the table, with 65.
Other areas deemed important by passengers involved in the survey include reducing journey times (98), good connections with other public transport at stations (69), improved personal security on the train (64) and more staff available at stations to help passengers (41).
The above graphic and full report can be viewed here.
Reflecting the growing importance of technology on journeys, 108 passengers said that free on-board Wi-Fi needed to be improved, while under half of those (41) felt that Wi-Fi at stations could also be better. However, better mobile phone coverage on trains came bottom of the 31-subject survey.
Transport Focus used a method of harvesting the data called Maximum Difference Scaling, which asks passengers to trade off one priority for improvement against others – enabling the figures to be presented in rank order of priority. For bespoke analysis, Transport Focus has developed a simulator tool that allows it to analyse different sectors or groups of passengers, for example a report that filters the priorities of passengers with disabilities.
Are there any improvements missing from the Transport Focus list? Let us know what you think.