Train strain for commuters fed up with services

A vast majority of commuters surveyed say they have seen no improvement in their train service over a year, research from Which? shows.

According to new data from the consumer champion, 13% of commuters thought that the service from their train company had got worse in the last year. 67% of commuters thought their train service had stayed the same, and just 20% noticed an improvement.

Despite private investment it rail being at its highest in a decade at £925 million, and fares rising by 3.4% at the start of this month, Which?’s latest annual rail survey, now in its sixth year, shows many train companies are still failing to properly address basic aspects of service for customers, with long suffering Southern rail commuters in particular making their dissatisfaction clear.

Finishing with the lowest customer score for the third consecutive year, Southern achieved a rating of just 28%. It scored just one star out of five for value for money, reliability and punctuality. It was rated at two stars in every other category, which include toilet facilities and condition of the carriages. 37% of Southern commuters thought the service has got worse in the last year.

The bottom three, all owned by parent company Govia, is completed by South Eastern (39%) and Thameslink & Great Northern (39%). South Eastern also received a one star rating for value for money, and scored just two stars in 6 out of the 8 categories, including reliability of service and the availability of seats. Thameslink & Great Northern achieved just two stars for the punctuality and reliability of its trains.

Grand Central topped the table, receiving a customer score of 64%, scoring four stars across the board for its service, achieiving the rating for the availability of seats, frequency of trains and condition of the carriages. It is also joined by Translink NI in second place (62%) and Virgin Trains West Coast (61%) and Chiltern Railways (61%)in third, who both received four stars for the reliability and frequency of their services.

The research also revealed the difficulties that passengers’ face when things go wrong. 25% of commuters who claimed compensation said the process of claiming compensation from train companies was difficult. According to the survey, just 37% of all train passengers who are eligible to compensation actually claim it. One in five passengers who complained to about their rail service also found the process challenging.

Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, said:

“Fares are going up but frustrated and long suffering passengers affected by seemingly never ending delays, cancellations and dirty trains don’t feel that their services are getting any better.

“The problems don’t stop there. People are also finding it difficult to claim compensation when things go wrong. Automatic compensation must be introduced across the industry so that people can get the money they are owed.”


Notes to eds

  1. Methodology: In October/November 2017, we surveyed 2865 UK commuters about their journeys by train in the last 12 months. The survey was conducted online by SSI, an external research company on behalf of Which?.
  2. Commuter table


  1. Millions of rail passenger journeys experienced significant delays in 2016:
  2. If you have experienced delays, overcrowding, poor train conditions, short formation trains or general poor service, share your nightmare experiences with Which? by visiting:
  3. Six of the 28 train operators – Virgin Trains West Coast, c2c, Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Northern – have demonstrated that auto-compensation works to improve the system for customers. Yet even here there is room for improvement as eligibility for auto-compensation varies, risking further confusion or limiting consumer choice in the ticketing market. For example, auto-compensation only applies:

On tickets purchased directly from the operator (Virgin Trains West Coast)

For smart card holders only (Thameslink, Great Northern and c2c)

Smart card purchases of season tickets, Travelcard season tickets, anytime single and return point-to-point tickets, off-peak single and return point-to-point tickets, and PLUSBUS tickets from travelling in Crawley and Brighton [excluding Newhaven and Seaford stations]  (Govia Thameslink smart card – Southern and Gatwick Express)

  1. Consumer Rights advises passengers on their train delay and cancellation rights. Newly, it gives passengers advice relevant to their ticket type and compensation scheme of the train company they travel with. It also provides a tool for passengers to make a statutory claim, outside of the train company’s own scheme.
  2. Rail Delivery Group – “Last year, private investment in rail – £925m – was the highest in a decade while government support for the rail industry was at a record low”: a decade while government support for the rail industry was at a record low”
  3. London Midland was replaced by West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway in December 2017

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