Way back in May we launched the Passenger Railway Challenge. It is our campaign to get the Government, train operators and the rail industry to offer the kind of experience passengers want and deserve.
Since then the railway had a major timetable meltdown and launched an important consultation into fares and ticketing. And we’ve been busy too, asking you for your opinions on a range of issues to help inform the campaign. Here are the results.
Fares and tickets
We have been campaigning on affordability of tickets for some time and know this is important to passengers, in particular part-time workers and people who do not commute every day. 92% of you on Twitter and 94% on Facebook said price was more important than ease of buying a ticket. This is a useful reminder that for many passengers the railway is just too expensive.
We will continue to call for meaningful discounts for flexible workers and insist that fares in general are set at an appropriate level given the benefits to wider society of people travelling by train instead of driving on polluted and congested roads. For those for whom buying a ticket easily is a concern, we are holding the Government to account on their promise to have smart ticketing at every station by the end of 2018.
Expanding the railway
When asked what was stopping you using the railway more, one issue was much bigger than fares. 72% of you on Twitter and 60% on Facebook said you wanted to see more stations and lines opened in order to make you use the railway more. We are calling for a Network Development Fund to pay for the opening of additional lines and stations. We think it is important that everyone has access to good public transport. New rail lines create new capacity and can relieve the network elsewhere.
Experience on the train
We asked you on Twitter if you prefer USB or UK plug sockets on the train. You were pretty divided with 57% wanting a UK socket and 43% preferring USB. Not to worry, the latest on-train power systems allow both in a single panel. We’ll be pushing for both where this is possible.
Safety is a really important factor for many passengers. When asked, 85% of you thought having staff on board made you feel safer, over the presence of help points or CCTV.
83% of you on Facebook would like more cycle storage on trains with 17% who thought more space at stations was the higher priority. We’ll be doing a lot of work on interchanges and the experience changing between different modes. The upcoming Cross Country franchise has a whopping 50% of passengers who interchange to another train. We know the experience at interchanges isn’t always the best and we want to see it improved no matter how you continue your journey.
Not all train journeys are the same and for longer journeys it might be more important to get work done. 50% of you thought a seat at a table was even more important than WiFi or a buffet car. WiFi is becoming an expectation of many passengers and it is important that the latest technology is used to ensure it is reliable.
Communicating with passengers
You were split in our Twitter poll about how to communicate changes to services. 22% prefer text message, 24% posters at stations, 22% email and 32% mobile app. What this shows is that there is no single solution and operators need to ensure information is personalised and delivered in the way that suits passengers. It must also be timely and accurate. We will be encouraging operators to employ the best practice in communicating with passengers, in particular when things go wrong.
When planning major changes 79% of you on Twitter preferred to be consulted via a website. But a significant 14% prefer a face to face survey and 7% a postal form. This is a useful reminder that operators must consult with passengers using a variety of methods. Even 14% of people responding to a poll on Twitter prefer a face to face survey for more complex issues!
Thank you for all your responses. They are a useful starting point for the Passenger Railway Challenge. We will now look at upcoming franchise competitions and consider the issues of each one in order to come up with specific asks for the Department for Transport and potential bidders. We might need to ask your opinion again.
In the meantime there is a very important fares and ticketing consultation going on. Please take five minutes to answer the Rail Delivery Group questions. The results of this consultation could impact on your the cost of your journey for decades.