Hartlepool passengers among the happiest, finds rail survey

A Grand Central train.
A Grand Central train.

A Transport Focus survey of more than 28,000 passengers has found the highest satisfaction score for ticket prices was recorded by Hartlepool's London service operator Grand Central.

Some 76% of passengers using its services - which include the Hartlepool-to-London connection - believe they get value for money.

The "open access" operator is one of those which does not receive a subsidy or pay a premium to the Department for Transport.

The report also found an increase in overall satisfaction among rail passengers to 83% in autumn 2015 - up from 81% year on year.

It is the first time rail passenger satisfaction in Britain has risen for the first time since 2012.

The operators with the three lowest ratings are all in the South East, where long-running improvement work at London Bridge station is causing disruption to services.

Thameslink had the lowest proportion of satisfied passengers at 73%, followed by Southeastern (75%) and Southern (78%).

The highest scores were achieved by First Hull Trains (97%), Heathrow Express (95%), Grand Central (93%) and Merseyrail (93%).

The national picture

Nationally the overall score for commuter satisfaction was 76% - up from 73% on the previous year.

Some 85% of business travellers are satisfied, compared with 90% of passengers on leisure trips, according to the study.

The proportion of passengers satisfied with the value for money of the ticket nationally was 48% - up from 46% in autumn 2014 - but the figures vary significantly for different regions and routes.

Passengers using the non-stop Gatwick Express between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport - which costs £34.90 for an Anytime Return ticket bought at a station - are least likely to be satisfied with their train fare at just 37%.

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: "It is good to know that more people are satisfied with their journeys by train but we know that there is more to do to keep improving and to give passengers the excellent services they expect.

"Our railway is benefiting from one of the biggest investment programmes in its history - major improvement work that is producing better stations, better trains and better journeys.

"We are sorry when people do not get the service they deserve. We never want people to suffer delays or disruption. Train operators and Network Rail work hard together every day to deliver a better, more punctual railway and to give people better information when things do go wrong."

Rail Minister Claire Perry said the overall satisfaction - which is at its highest level since autumn 2012 (85%) - was "a welcome sign that our record investment is starting to deliver results".

Independent regulator the Office of Rail and Road claimed the figures were an "encouraging step forward" as the industry works to improve standards.

Some 68% of commuters reported being satisfied with the punctuality of services and just 31% satisfied by how well train companies deal with delays.

The satisfaction score for whether there is sufficient room to sit or stand was 54% for commuters, while just 30% of that group were satisfied by the toilet facilities on their train.

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: "Punctuality and crowding drive passenger views of the railway.

"The value for money scores highlight the wide variations around the country and between different routes.

"Passengers rightly expect the train companies and Network Rail to keep to their basic promises, with most trains on time, the right length and with few cancellations."