‘Disappointing’ results for rail passengers

The problems faced by Scotlands rail passengers has resulted in a significant drop in overall passenger satisfaction.  Pic: Ian Georgeson.

The problems faced by Scotlands rail passengers has resulted in a significant drop in overall passenger satisfaction. Pic: Ian Georgeson.

The problems faced by Scotland’s rail passengers’ has resulted in a significant drop in overall passenger satisfaction of seven percentage points.

This is according to the latest rail passenger satisfaction figures from the National Rail Passenger Survey published last week.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog, said the findings were poor: “These are disappointing results and a departure from ScotRail’s previous good performance. Sadly, punctuality – which drives passenger views of the railway – has fallen six percentage points.

“Increased passenger numbers are putting extra pressure on the rail network both in its day-to-day operation and during rebuilding. Improvements and investments to the railway to cope with the growth and attract new passengers are welcome.

“Meanwhile, ScotRail Alliance’s performance improvement plan needs to deliver better outcomes for passengers: trains arriving on time, fewer cancellations and carriages of the right length.”

But Phil Verster, ScotRail Alliance managing director, said ScotRail’s overall customer satisfaction has remained above the national average, despite Scotland’s railway undergoing an unprecedented period of change.

He said: “Everyone who works on Scotland’s railway will be disappointed by these results – we always want our customer satisfaction to be going up. However, they come on the back of a difficult year for our customers. Operating a busy and complicated network is challenging at the best of times – and we are doing so during one of the largest investments in modernisation since Scotland’s railway was built in Victorian times.

“There is no alternative, though, to doing the work.

“The decision to invest in the railway’s future has been put off too many times and it is in the best long term interests of passengers that we get on and do it. It is then our job to do whatever we can to keep people moving during this work and to better communicate when things go wrong and explain why they go wrong.”

He continued: “When we brought in our Performance Improvement Plan we said that we wanted to make sure that we were doing everything we could to transform the railway for tomorrow, while bringing about better performance today. I believe that we are making good progress, but there is much to do.

“The latest round of statistics has shown that our punctuality and reliability is improving and bucking the national trend. That this has happened while we are still carrying out all of the work to deliver a new, more modern railway is down to the hard work, every day, of the 7,500 people who work for the ScotRail Alliance.

“This year, all of that improvement work will start to deliver results. The new faster, longer, greener trains that will deliver more seats and shorter journeys are currently being tested in Scotland ahead of their introduction later this year. In the months that follow, we will see more new trains, more services and improvements at more of our stations.”

He added: “This is exactly what customers want and it is what we are all working hard to deliver.”

The fieldwork for the survey, carried out by Transport Focus, was conducted between September and November 2016. It is the first survey to be carried out following the five month closure of the upper platforms at Queen Street Station and last summer’s RMT dispute.