Decade of poor value for rail passengers

Following another bank holiday weekend blighted by rail engineering works, new Which? analysis reveals that passenger satisfaction with value for money has remained low over the last ten years, as fares have spiralled.

New Which? analysis of official Transport Focus data found there has been little meaningful improvement in passenger satisfaction with value for money across all the train operators, rising just 7 percentage points overall in a decade from 41% to 48%. For commuters, satisfaction levels were lower still at 34% when they were surveyed in Autumn 2015, having also only improved by 7 percentage points over the decade.

This is against a backdrop of rail fare prices over the same period increasing by 54%, more than double the rate of overall CPI inflation. Similarly, when it comes to passenger satisfaction on how delays are dealt

with, while some train companies have shown an improvement the national picture shows little positive change, with only a 4 percentage point increase in satisfaction over the past 10 years (2006: 35% to 2015: 39%).

In December 2015 Which? lodged a super-complaint to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) calling for urgent improvements to make it easier for passengers to claim refunds for rail delays and cancellations.

Following the regulator’s response, we are now calling on the Government to ensure that the ORR has new powers and duties to enable them to be a strong, independent regulator that stands up for passengers. Where breaches of consumer law and licence conditions have been found as part of the investigation for our super-complaint, the ORR must take enforcement action without delay.

​​Which? executive director Richard Lloyd, said:

“Despite repeated claims that the railways are improving, passengers say that rail travel offers little more value for money than a decade ago. What’s more, people have found even less of an improvement in the way train companies handle delays. This is an unacceptably slow pace of change, so the Government must quickly now give the rail regulator the powers and duties it needs to be an independent consumer watchdog that can hold train operators to account.”

Notes to editors:

  1. Full data can be found at:
  2. Inflation data based percentage change in annual Consumer Prices Index  from 2006 to 2015, and for “Passenger transport by Railway” item 07.3.1, Office for National Statistics February 2016.

​3. ​

VALUE FOR MONEY % passengers satisfied in Spring 2006 % passengers satisfied in Autumn 2015
Commuter 27 34
Business 41 47
Leisure 58 64
Across all train companies 41 48


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