Ticket prices and toilets a 'major concern' for rail passengers

By Peter Woodman,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 04:28
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Ticket prices and toilet provisions are the biggest concern of rail travellers, a major survey showed today.

Passengers regard value for money as the area that needs to improve the most on the railways, the poll of more than 3,000 train travellers revealed.

Toilet facilities on trains are one of the areas which passengers feel falls well short of expectations in the survey by rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus.

Commuters are the least satisfied class of rail passengers, with their expectations being met in only six of 31 different aspects of rail travel.

Among business travellers, less than half of their expectations are being met, while leisure travellers appear to be the happiest of the rail users, with their expectations either met or exceeded in two-thirds of cases.

The survey also showed that passengers are unhappy with the way train companies deal with delays to their journey.

The area where passengers' expectations are exceeded the most is the attitude and helpfulness of staff on trains and at stations.

Commuters are also happy with the length of time their journeys are scheduled to take - with the speed exceeding expectations.

Passenger Focus rail director Ashwin Kumar said: "Value for money remains the key priority for improvement for Britain's rail passengers.

"We know that commuter fares are the most expensive in Europe, with an annual season ticket for a journey such as Warrington to Manchester costing 60% more than an equivalent journey into Paris.

"Long-distance fares are complex and confusing and passengers find it hard to know whether they've got the cheapest fare for their journey."

He went on: "Clearly, getting more trains on time is key but price, the ability to get a seat, dealing with delays and ensuring staff are visible and helpful are also important.

"Constantly working to make rail punctual, good value and frequent is vital to keeping existing passengers happy and attracting new ones."

A spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said customers' wants and needs were well-understood and customer satisfaction levels were at a record high.

He continued: "But operators will continue to work hard with the rest of the industry, including Passenger Focus, to improve services even further.

"Train companies are under an obligation to sell passengers the most appropriate ticket for their journey and four out of five customers travel on discounted fares, suggesting that most people have no problem getting the right ticket for them. The average price paid for a single journey is under £5."

Gerry Doherty, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: "This survey confirms what we already know - that Britain has the highest rail fares in Europe and passengers are fed up with being ripped off.

"(Transport Secretary) Philip Hammond should reject the siren calls from the private operating companies who want him to allow them to push up fares by 10% from January.

"What he should do next week is to implement the Lib Dem manifesto commitment and limit fare rises in January to 1% above the RPI inflation rate. This would mean a 4% rise in the new year."

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