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 Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Train passengers 'getting happier'
Passenger walks past an Arriva train
Passengers say things are improving slightly
Rail passengers say they are becoming slightly happier with their train services - but there is still a long way to go.

A six-monthly survey of passengers by the Strategic Rail Authority found that 73% were satisfied with their train journey on the day they were questioned, compared with 69% in spring last year.

The survey coincided with an SRA report that train punctuality has improved by almost 10% on late last year, although it was up only about 2% on six months ago.

The Rail Passengers Council said the survey was probably a fair reflection of how people felt - but operators still needed to invest in more trains.

Passengers happy with their journey
Overall: 72%
Punctuality: 65%
Frequency: 70%
Value for money: 42%
Information: 67%
Source: SRA

"It's good to see some improvements, but they're not happening as fast as we'd like," spokesperson David Beynon told BBC News Online.

"The firms with the happiest customers are the ones who've finally got new trains into service - good new trains that do what they're supposed to do, so passengers start getting happier."

Click here to see passengers' views of each train company

Paul Gentleman of the Better Railways Advisory Council told BBC News Online the situation for passengers was "gradually improving", but there were still concerns.

"We are finally starting to see an improvement in the maintenance of the infrastructure, and reaping the benefits of train operating companies' investing in rolling stock."

But he said overcrowding was becoming a real issue.

"We need to look at how to improve the infrastructure to give extra capacity".

Scotrail woe

Passengers in the SRA survey were most happy with the tiny Isle of Wight Island Line, which scored 92% on the passenger satisfaction ratings.

Other operators scoring highly on the passenger satisfaction rating were Anglia Railways (90%), Chiltern and Gatwick Express (both 87%) and GNER (84%).

Anglia was the only company to have achieved levels of customer satisfaction as high as those before the October 2000 Hatfield crash.

Passenger satisfaction ratings
Highest: Island Line (92%) and Anglia (90%)
Lowest: WAGN and South West Trains (64%)

Passengers were least happy with WAGN and South West Trains, which both scored just 64% on the passenger satisfaction ratings.

Mr Beynon pointed out that some problems were beyond the train operators' control - some had suffered last year from power failure on the lines, for instance.

"Our most important message is that the rail infrastructure needs immediate improvements.

"The successor to Railtrack needs to sort this out as quickly as possible to get improvements."

The SRA said Scotrail - whose customer satisfaction levels dropped by 7% - was affected by recent industrial action, but pointed out that its 77% rating was still average for comparable train operators.

Fare gripes

According to the SRA, less than half of passengers thought the railways were value for money - 42% compared to 41% in spring 2001.

Better and worse
Most improved: Anglia (+19%)
Most deteriorated: Scotrail (-7%)

This is unsurprising, as it also found that fares had on average gone up much more than inflation - and that unregulated fares on some long-distance lines had risen by almost 10%.

Stewart Francis, chairman of the Rail Passengers Council, said those fare rises were "bitterly disappointing".

"These walk-on fares should play an important part in encouraging people to use the railway at a time when motoring costs are falling - extravagant price increases will drive potential passengers away."

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BBC News Online's in-depth coverage on the state of the UK's railways

10 year rail plan

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