Oh, mother! Why couldn’t you break your hand off-peak?

It's no surprise that train companies receive poor customer satisfaction ratings in the latest survey. Plus, a snapshot of times past on the BBC

Share
Related Topics

If train companies are looking for a way to spin the bad news from the latest Which? survey – which reveals that only 22 per cent of regular rail users think that their service is improving – they’ll probably have to go with the suggestion that familiarity breeds contempt. Ask one-off travellers if they’re satisfied with their journies, and you get a vastly more positive response than if you ask commuters.

People using trains every day are less charmed by them, because they spend so much on tickets. That’s in addition to the £3.5bn we all contribute to the train companies each year to keep the wolf from their automated doors.

The least popular rail companies run commuter routes: First Capital Connect came in bottom, which makes perfect sense to anyone who’s ever mimicked illegally transported cattle by trying to travel in its carriages. But even the most popular company – Virgin Trains – has only a 67 per cent satisfaction rating.

Perhaps the remaining 33 per cent shared my experience last year, when I had to buy a ticket unexpectedly on a Bank Holiday Monday, and got stung for a full-price, weekday, rush-hour fare. And, yes, I do know that travelling without booking three months ahead is now the preserve of millionaires and playboys, but my mother had fallen and broken her hand, something she rudely decided to do with no notice whatsoever. I’ve explained the system to her for next time, though, so now she knows to trip off-peak, at the weekends.

Which?  also looked into the creeping menace of incomprehensible ticket machines, exposing the hopelessness of buying the cheapest legitimate ticket without a full copy of the rail company statutes in your luggage and a lawyer as your travelling companion. The Association of Train Operating Companies loves these infernal machines, saying: “Many passengers find them a quick, convenient way to buy tickets.” This is rather like a ready-meal manufacturer suggesting that horse meat is really popular, because it’s been cantering off the shelves for months.

Only one in five tickets is bought from a machine, even now when a human ticket vendor is almost exactly as rare as a minotaur. This statistic makes perfect sense to anyone who’s ever wondered which ticket they need for their journey, pressed the Information button on a ticket machine in a deserted station, and received the message, “Restrictions Apply, Please Enquire”.

If train companies wanted to improve their ratings, they could reduce prices. Even simplifying them would be a start. They could add services to crowded routes. Or – and this would cost nothing – they could stop the timetable lunacy that sees a train take 30 minutes longer on a Sunday to travel the route it goes every other day, so it can have a little rest near Peterborough. 

Normal service will resume, sadly

Watching the BBC’s morning news when the NUJ is on strike is like travelling back in time. Much as I love Bill and Susanna and pine for them when they’re off the air, I could get used to the return of stern, simplified news. It’s only when you go back to watch Chris Morris’ The Day Today that you realise how many people in news broadcasting saw it as a training video, rather than a satire.

But yesterday morning, all personality was taken out of the early news. A complete stranger in a suit was sitting in a stripped-down studio, delivering the headlines devoid of fuss. No journos wandered randomly down streets before stopping and producing computer graphics out of their left shoulder. No one strolled in to discuss the phenomenon of comedians over the age of 55, as happened a couple of days ago. There was just some news, and then a nice programme about horses. I could get used to this.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road