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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 June 2007, 07:49 GMT 08:49 UK
Value of rail travel 'at new low'
Crowded train
Standing room only is an everyday experience for many commuters
Only 40% of rail passengers feel they get good value for money from their train operator, according to a survey.

The figure is an all-time low, says watchdog Passenger Focus who questioned more than 25,000 train customers.

Of those asked, 79% were satisfied with their journey - down 2% from last year - and a quarter were unhappy about overcrowding and shortage of seats.

The director general of the Association of Train Operating Companies said the survey contained "serious warnings".

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, George Muir said: "We try to do everything we can to make their journey satisfactory and attractive.

"On the whole we have quite high levels of satisfaction, but the warning is in the detail."

Commuter routes

Rail value for money was felt to be at its lowest since the survey began in 1999.

Other major gripes were with the standard of toilet facilities on trains and the way in which operators handled delays.

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The worst results were on major commuter lines like First Great Western and First Capital Connect where satisfaction dropped by 6% and 5% respectively.

One Railway, which serves East Anglia, and Northern Rail were also criticised in the survey, carried out between January and March this year.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, said he hoped the slump in satisfaction was a "dip" and not the beginning of a trend.

"What's worrying is some of the very big train companies who are carrying millions of customers every day are said to be struggling," Mr Smith said.

"They're not really delivering the basics of what passengers want."

'Scary' predictions

The most successful were long distance services with 87% of passengers rating them as satisfactory.

Midland Mainline and TransPennine Express both saw improvements of 3%, and Arriva Trains Wales, Chiltern Railways and Central Trains were also praised.

But Mr Smith warned that all operators - and ministers - would have to do more, especially in London and the South East, to cope with "quite scary" passenger forecasts for the future.

Network Rail estimate that in 2004, 70,000 commuters (15% of the total) had to stand on their way into London during morning rush-hours. About 29,000 had to stand on the way home in the evening.

They predict those figures could rocket to 130,000 and 67,000 respectively by 2014.

They're not really delivering the basics of what passengers want
Anthony Smith
Passenger Focus

"It's going to get crowded out there and it needs some pretty dramatic government action to correct it," Mr Smith added.

Mr Muir insisted there had already been "new trains, more services, improved punctuality, better information and refurbished stations".

But he promised that operators would listen to passengers' concerns and take steps to improve their experience.

"There are some quite serious warnings within this report," Mr Muir said.

"We have to get the investment into the railway.

"The government has promised another thousand carriages. This is a very welcome promise, but we've got to get them on the railway quickly."


Aspects of rail travel that passengers say have got worse/better

Issue Satisfied/ good (%) Change (%)
How well company dealt with delays 32 -3
Toilet facilities on trains 36 -3
Value for money for the price of ticket 38 -1
Space for luggage 40 -2
Sufficient room for all passengers to sit/stand 47 -2
Helpfulness and attitude of train staff 62 -2
Frequency of trains on route 75 -1
Ease of getting on and off 75 -2
Punctuality/reliability (arriving/departing on time) 77 -2
Overall satisfaction 79 -2
Length of time journey was scheduled to take (speed) 81 -1
Aspects passengers say have got better
Ticket buying facilities 67 2

Commuters tell of trouble on the trains

Crowded out
25 Jan 07 |  Magazine
More trains to cure overcrowding
09 May 07 |  England

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