Friday, 1 February 2013

Satisfaction Guaranteed?

Not quite, perhaps.
But when it comes to our railways, are our actual perceptions of our travels vastly different to those of the media and the frustrated ranting of the Twitter generation?
Passenger Focus has released its most recent National Passenger Survey results (from Autumn 2012) and, as ever, makes for interesting reading.
Over 31,500 people were surveyed, and if you’re ready to read about a tale of frustration, incompetent train operating companies and a damning indictment of how we move around the country, think again. A record 85% of passengers are satisfied with their journey.
Now, the more cynical amongst us will look at “surveys” and perhaps dismiss them as not representative. But 31,500?
Public transport takes a lot of stick from media types. For the more lazy of the species, it’s an easy target. Engineering works over Christmas, annual fare increases, snow...they all make easy headlines to write about tales of woe, dismissing the whole industry as one huge basket case of profiteering demons whilst the masses struggle against an endless line of delays and excuses.
And maybe it is against this backdrop of supposed doom and gloom that I try to amaze you with evidence that, actually, public transport is doing quite well!
As ever, context is required. No sooner I press the button to publish this blog, I will no doubt receive comments from people – perhaps locals here in the West Midlands who have been affected by a recent shortage of train drivers, coupled with a run of signal failures, etc. Public transport is such a huge operation; there are localised issues every day. But this across the board survey from Passenger Focus is worth its weight in gold, because it shows in all sorts of categories, what literally thousands of people really think about their rail journeys every day.
Of course, the media won’t trumpet these findings. But it shouldn’t stop the industry trying to shout louder about the good job it does in serving the travelling public.
The industry can do better though. As ever, there is always room for improvement. Fares are an issue to be debated ad infinitum and the Government’s review of this topic, due in late Spring should make interesting reading. Prices are one thing, but simplicity is the overriding issue for me. Information – especially at times of disruption – varies on all sorts of levels, from station announcements to the 140 character tweets of the techno-savvy generation. There is still a lot of work to be done in this area.
You can download the report at which includes breakdowns of figures for each train operating company.
But whilst we inevitably acknowledge that our railways aren’t perfect, we must also see that there is much to be reasonably pleased with – an image not always shared by the media! 


  1. You are so right about lazy journalism. But as rail only accounts for 16% of the public transport market and nearly 50 % of us only use trains once a year, many folk simply aren't interested.

  2. True, Roger. But the same can be said for attitudes towards bus. Public transport needs to work as seamlessly as possible and present itself in that way. "Network West Midlands" is a brand that says "public transport" but regardless of individual mode. Hop from bus to train to tram, it doesn't matter - it should all be part of the same family.