Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Rail improvements 'still needed'

Train information board at Cardiff
Arriva Trains Wales said it hopes improved timetables will be welcomed by passengers

Passengers on rail services in Wales are more satisfied than the average rail user in the UK, a train users' watchdog survey shows.

Arriva Trains Wales achieved an 86% overall satisfaction rating from those questioned by Passenger Focus. The average across Britain was 83%.

But the poll found satisfaction dipped when it came to ticket-buying, staff availability and train frequency.

Arriva Trains Wales said it would use the results to help it improve.

Arriva train
Ticket buying facilities - 61% satisfaction (down by 9% on 2006)
Availability of staff - 46% (down 11%)
Frequency of trains - 76% (down 6%)
Car parking facilities - 58% (up 10%)
Satisfaction survey of Arriva Wales passengers. Source: NPS Autumn 2008

Passenger Focus polled 754 passengers on the Arriva Trains Wales network as part of the its autumn 2008 National Passenger Survey (NPS).

The survey asked people to rate several factors including station facilities, car parking, the availability and helpfulness of staff, punctuality of trains and ticket value for money.

The survey found passengers' satisfaction had declined in some areas from the time of a previous survey in autumn 2006, including in ticket buying facilities, the availability of staff at stations and the frequency of trains.

However there were rises in the satisfaction rates in the availability of parking facilities and on-train toilet facilities.

Simon Pickering, Passenger Focus manager for Wales, said: "It is clear that while certain areas have improved, services and facilities at stations are still short of passengers expectations."

In a statement, Arriva Trains Wales said it noted that overall passenger satisfaction had gone up to 86% from 85% in the 2007 NPS study.

Upkeep/repair of station buildings - 67% satisfaction (up by 6% on 2006)
Cleanliness - 72% (up 5%)
Punctuality/reliability of trains - 76% (up 10%)
Value for money of tickets - 51% (up 6%)
Satisfaction survey of First Great Western passengers. Source: NPS Autumn 2008

The firm said: "While satisfaction over frequency of trains had gone down slightly, Arriva Trains Wales is hopeful that the improved timetable changes in December 2008 will be reflected in the next NPS study." Customer services director, Ian Bullock, added: "While we are generally pleased with the results there are still clearly areas of the business that we need to improve."

The customers of other train companies that serve Wales were also surveyed by Passenger Focus.

First Great Western saw its customer approval rise seven percentage points to 80% from the 2,949 passengers questioned.

Virgin Trains scored an overall satisfaction result of 84% (down 2%) and CrossCountry also 84% (up 2%).

Passenger Focus board member for Wales, Stella Mair Thomas, said: "It is pleasing to see that satisfaction with FGW's services has started to improve after a lengthy period of poor performance."

Have rail services improved in Wales recently? Here are some of your views.

In September I travelled by train from Scotland first class. When I changed at Swansea the Arriva train I had to get on was packed and many people were standing with their case.The train was very shoddy and was a real comedown from the first class compartment of the First Great Western I had just got off.

Why can't Arriva had some decent trains for a change?
millie, Wales

Arriva really needs to get its act together especially with its bus and train connections.

For example, taking the line from Birmingham to Mid and North Wales from early evening there is no connection at Machynlleth up the Cambrian Line. But there is a connection which one can catch which is two hours later and arrives on the Lleyn after their last bus has gone. Of course one could try to catch the express X32 North but that's timed to miss the train's arrival by a few minutes. Train travel through Wales would be massively improved if the Cambrian Line could somehow join up to the North Wales Coast line at Bangor and south from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen once more. But this would be down to the Welsh Assembly whose eyes, sadly, are only ever on the M4 corridor and they never see anything more than twenty miles from the South Welsh Coast. Travelling from North Wales to South Wales by train currently means taking a slow route via England which takes the best part of the day.
Malcolm Smith, Porthmadog

I catch at least 2 trains a day and have never completed a survey... If I did my score would show the truth.. the fact that I pay over 600 a year for a ticket and rarely get a seat makes me very unsatisfied!
Stephen James, Cardiff

The surveys given out by Arriva are heavily flawed. The surveys only ever ask about the current journey and not about your general opinion. and surprisingly enough every time i have been asked to fill in the survey the train has double the amount of carriages and is on time. Is that a co-incidence?? Perhaps they should have people taking surveys on every journey if this is the effect they have on punctuality.
Gemma McDonald, New Tredegar

Could not disagree more - let's remember that when these surveys are carried out they specifically state that you are only to comment 'on the journey you are currently making only'. How does this give a clear overall picture. Arriva Trains Wales remain one of the worst operators in Europe...the whole of the uk rail network needs pulling into the 21st century. That applies to rolling stock (which is seeing improvement) and outdated timetabling (what's with winter/summer and Sunday times - do we do things differently in these periods - we do if we want to use public transport).

when i get the train from shrewsbury it is always never on time when i need to be in welshpool at a certain time. something has got to be done now.
mikey cairns, welshpool

As I emailed Arriva earlier, Is it April 1st already?

This report is clearly nonsensical. It was either carried out during non-peak travel times. Or on Peak times on trains heading to Valleys or Penarth. Admittedly, the service has been adequate recently but before christmas I had to deal with 6 cancelled trains in two weeks. The conductors are more concerned with raising money than apologising, and when asked they don't know whats happening. And my letter of complaint was met with derision from Arriva Trains Wales who advised me the trains I mentioned in my letter don't exist!

Finally, the 08:56 train was of course on time as it was heading north, any train going south (to Barry or Bridgend, Penarth is A-ok) is severely delayed, if it goes at all.
Matthew Davies, Barry

I have been commuting to Cardiff every day for the last nine years and do not believe there is anything to be satisfied about. There are no facilities at all at my station, only a tiny, draughty 'bus stop' type shelter, and despite all trains having to travel through it, they only stop here once every two hours. The trains are frequently late or cancelled, and no other provisions are made, so while the passengers at my station are waiting for our train to arrive, we all have to stand and watch other trains go straight through, having stopped at the station before and which will be stopping at the station after, just not our station. There is no improvement in the new time table, in fact the times of the trains for my station are now much worse. The train conductors are mainly helpful and pleasant, but surely the primary purpose for a train company, should be to run trains frequently and on time, and in both of these areas Arriva fail utterly.
A Williams, Pontypool, Wales

Well I believe that the S Wales rail service is the best in the country, I have never had any problems with the trains and have never experienced any delays or cancelations, I use the train quite alot and I am also a keen railway enthusiast when I travelled on FGW in Devon back in the summer the service was appaling, there were only 2 carrages on the train for about 300 people, but I do belive that the service has inproved.
Llion, Aberdare S Wales

Last September I travelled from Colwyn Bay to Hereford on an exceptionally uncomfortable and overcrowded train. This train, of only two carraiges, was making a long journey from Holyhead to Cardiff - Wales deserves better than this!
Jonquil Phelan, London

I used to get the train from Euston via Birmingham to Shrewsbury, and always, always, always it was the arriva service from Brum to Shrewsbury that would be late, packed, slow and miserable. I now get the direct train from Marylebone - it's scheduled to be slower, but it is a joy (and i think in reality quicker) to avoid arriva wales!!
Stuart, London

Just what is the point of Passenger Focus? They're supposed to represent passenger views yet they seem to be rather out of touch judging by the other comments on here. These surveys target kindly-looking folk and off-peak travellers simply because surveyors couldn't get onto trains at rush hour. Time to get some decent passenger represenation I think!
Greg, Barry

First Great Western (Worst Great Western) are shockingly bad on the route I use daily between Newport and bristol. I haven't had a seat in weeks, always standing, sweating away in cramped conditions, rather like a cattle truck I imagine. What was the above inflation rise in fares for. Not to put more carriages on that's for sure!!
pau m roberts, Newport, Wales

I recently had the misfortune to change trains at Swansea station on a Sunday evening. It is a disgrace to the second city of Wales. It is dirty and the facilities are very poor. All the toilets were locked, apparently to keep out the junkies! Vast sums of money are to be spent to tart up Newport station for the Ryder Cup visitors. The money would be better spent improving Swansea station.
Terry Phillips, Carmarthen

I regularly travel home from London to Haverfordwest on the train and I don't understand why the last third of the journey, Cardiff to Haverfordwest, can take just as long as the other two thirds of the trip from London. It's a real come down when I get off the First Western Train and onto an Arriva train. Not only is it slower, but the seats are less comfortable, there's never enough of them and the buffet carriage is downgraded to a trolley, which is sometimes totally absent. Why are we stuck with such an incompetent rail operator, the contract should be awarded to a better party. We need a smaller number of good rail operators to maintain some consistency in service across the UK. Better still, Gordon, just bring back British Rail. After all, you're nationalising the banks, why not renationalise the rail network? Nobody will think any worse of you.
Tom Jenkins, London, UK

The rolling stock on the Vale line belongs to the 60's and with a normal two carriage service you can forget about a seat at peak times, especially from Cardiff Central. If arriva think that they are providing anything other than a basic service at a premium cost then they are sadly mistaken.
Richard Brown, Llantwit Major

Just to redress the balance: I am a regular user of the Cambrian lines, and they do seem to be providing a more reliable service since the December 2008 timetable changes. The staff are almost unfailingly helpful and pleasant. Last week I observed the booking office staff at Machynlleth handle a very complex series of bookings with the utmost patience, a model of customer care.
Nigel Kelly, Aberystwyth, Wales

I have been catching trains every day from Pontypridd for the last 15 years. They have got better but there is still a long way to go to meet the standards of comfort and passanger facilities that are available on most trains in England. Now most trains are 4 carragies (it used to be 2) the plans to introduce 6 carriage trains is another step in the right direction. But better facilities at stations and on trains together with more regular trains at night would really boost passenger satisfaction.
Geraint Day, Pontypridd

I commute to Cardiff at least 5 days a week and i must be honest and say that i am disgusted by the service that i get. At busy times of the day, you can guarantee that there will only be 2 carriages so most people, including myself, have to stand up for the journey home. I pay 90 a month for this. Also, when there is a bus service on to Aberdare, recently i have had to hang around in the rain to then have a shoddy bus turn up with a maniac for a driver!! It took me over 3 hours to get home, when usually it takes me 50 mins. For the price i pay, i certainly do not get the service!!
Leanne, Mountain Ash, South Wales

I live in Essex and my family live in Newtown, mid-Wales, whom I visit a number of times a year by train and have done for over thirty years. I don't think the train that leaves Newtown for England has EVER left on time and I, more than often, miss my connection at Wolverhampton or Birmingham. It is a shocking service and I agree with a previous writer,it must be the worst train line in Europe. The trains into and out of mid-Wales only occur every two hours and if Arriva Wales can't get those on time what hope is there for an hourly service, which I gather is planned. I am convinced that Arriva Wales is on a different time zone to the rest of the UK which accounts for their trains being continually late. However, on the positive side, at least there are now more than two carriages per train which has eased the overcrowding - but Arriva still has a lot to learn,if it doesn't, its franchise should be taken away.
Nicola Acres, Hornchurch, Essex

Just after the rise in ticket prices, Arriva Trains Wales servicve between Cardiff and Aberdare was cancelled for engieneering works. Yes the was a bus replacement service but the buses were never on time! Why couldnt the engineering works be done at a more suitable time for comuters?
Nathan Davies, Aberdare

If only Virgin ran trains in Wales...
Mathew Nicholls, Wrexham, Wales

Perhaps they should travel on the line to Aberystwyth... I do not think there are many people even remotly satisfied with that service.
Sarah, Aberystwyth

I'd like to respond to all those comments saying how rubbish ARRIVA Trains Wales are - granted they hold the monopoly in Wales, but they are certainly a lot better than some of their connecting companies - FIRST Great Western and London Midland of note. FGW staff are rude and unhelpful, and they have a premium-rate line to phone to complain. London Midland services (cross-Birmingham services from Stratford-on-Avon/Dorridge to Worcester/Kidderminster) are crummy old 3-car units which a) don't look very nice (either inside or out), and b) have a habit of breaking down in a tunnel under Birmingham New Street. However, the worst company are Virgin West Coast. Since they lost their Cross-Country franchise, yes the services have got better, but some of their staff still need to take a leaf out of ARRIVA Trains Wales' book regarding customer service. One guard once told me my ticket was invalid - and I'd bought it about 10 minutes before boarding the train. It was only valid if I showed him BOTH portions of the ticket, my RailCard AND my debit card receipt. Virgin, FGW and London Midland, take note!
Alex Gillespy, Bangor, North Wales

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