Passengers say trains are getting worse

A survey of Britain’s railway passengers published today has shown that trains are less punctual and are more crowded that they were in 1998.

The poll carried out by the consumers’ association Which? found that passengers believe there are severe problems with late trains, cancellations and overcrowding, despite higher government subsidies and increased revenue from tickets.

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), set up by the Government in 2000 to oversee improvements to the network and services, also came under fire for making no improvements over the past three years.

The survey, carried out at eight mainline train stations in May this year, asked commuters about their experiences over the previous five working days as well as their general perceptions.

Punctuality was the top priority for the passengers surveyed; trains had caused 40 per cent of people to be late for work, and almost half to be late home at least once in the previous five days.

Only 23% of passengers were satisfied with levels of overcrowding and just 17% thought the railways had improved over the last two years.

Helen Parker, editor of Which?, commented: ‘The travelling public seem to have been all but forgotten in the discussions about the future of the railways. Commuters face fewer trains, higher fares and no improvements in performance.’

But the SRA called the survey an ‘incomplete and inaccurate picture of the rail industry’ and said that to say passengers have been forgotten is ‘simply wrong’.

Richard Bowker, chairman of the SRA, explained: ‘Everything the rail industry is doing is focused on improving rail performance and the overall journey experience of rail passengers: the new model of franchises for train operators will deliver improvements to passengers and our engineering works programmes are planned with passengers in mind.’