The latest National Rail Passenger Survey by watchdog Transport Focus shows satisfaction with the UK’s rail services is at its lowest level since 2008.

Overall satisfaction for the autumn 2018 survey was 79 per cent, with more than one in five passengers not happy with the service.

The results from a poll of 25,000 passengers come after a year fraught with delays and cancellations caused by the introduction of the largest timetable change in decades last summer, multiple strikes across several operators and worsening punctuality.

In September, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found delays were the worst for 12 years. It ordered Network Rail to improve its performance in the face of extreme weather and the implementation of new timetables to ensure passengers get the service they pay for.

While today’s Transport Focus report shows two out of 25 train operators – Heathrow Express and Chiltern Railways – improved their customer satisfaction score, seven experienced a significant decline in the same period – Great Northern, Northern, Transpennine Express, Greater Anglia, Thameslink, Scotrail and London North Eastern Railway.

There is a gap of 27 percentage points between the companies with the highest and lowest satisfaction rating.

Overall satisfaction with punctuality was 71 per cent, significantly down from 74 per cent in autumn 2017 and substantially lower than 81 per cent in 2008.

Nationally, overall happiness with value for money was 46 per cent (the same as 2008), but for commuters that number drops to 31 per cent.

Commuters expressed their anger at the performance of the railways in January when they returned from the Christmas holidays to a 3.1 per cent increase in average fares.

When delays did happen, passengers reported a 37 per cent satisfaction score for how they were handled by train operators. However, there was a vast difference between the lowest score (29 per cent for Southern and Thameslink) and the highest (77 per cent for Grand Central).

Long-distance operators received an overall score of 83 per cent compared to 86 per cent the previous year, while regional companies had a 79 per cent satisfaction rating.

The biggest decline in reasons for dissatisfaction were the usefulness of information about delays (down 13 per cent) and how well operators dealt with delays (down 11 per cent).

Passengers were given an avenue for resolving complaints when the Rail Delivery Group launched the Rail Ombudsman service in November.

Anthony Smith, CEO of Transport Focus, commented: “Our latest survey confirms passenger satisfaction has fallen to a ten-year low. Government and the industry must continue to focus on performance. In the longer term the government’s Rail Review must bring about fundamental change.

“Passenger irritation at poor performance erodes their most basic trust in the industry. Passenger frustration at continual fare increases saps confidence in the system to reform itself. Passenger anger during the summer timetable crisis was palpable. A better value for money and more reliable railway must arrive soon for passengers.”

Download the full report here

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