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New research exposes rail's under-performing areas

9 December 2013
New research into rail services shows that London, the North West and West Midlands are on the fast track while the East of England, Wales and the North East remain stuck in the sidings.

The research, Benchmarking Rail Services Across Great Britain, compares regional rail performance across investment, growth and passenger satisfaction. It was carried out by consultants Credo in association with Campaign for Better Transport.

Key findings are:


  • The rail networks serving London, the South East, North West, West Midlands and Scotland are the best performing in the UK.
  • In London, services are well-used and have benefited from major investment, although passenger satisfaction is hindered by concern about cost and over-crowding.
  • The North West and West Midlands perform well with fast-growing passenger numbers, investment and good local governance adding to the positive picture.
  • Scotland and Wales have very different fortunes. With management of the Scotrail franchise devolved, Scottish rail services are growing and have high levels of passenger satisfaction. Welsh rail services, which are managed from Whitehall, perform much less well in usage, accessibility and satisfaction.
  • Also performing weakly are the East of England and North East which have relatively sparse rail networks, making services inaccessible to many people.

Matt Lovering, Director (Transport Practice), at Credo said


"The research highlights important issues for rail right across the country. For the south east, it reveals how much the London economy relies on the trains, but also the increasing disquiet among commuters at the cost of getting to work. There's strong performance in the West Midlands and the North West showing the benefits of the investments made there. The East of England on the other hand scores much less well, raising questions about how rail can best support the region's burgeoning economy. The comparison between Scotland and Wales is stark, with devolved management of services in Scotland delivering significantly better results than the equivalent in Wales.”

Jim Barclay, Senior Advisor at Credo said

"As more responsibility for funding is devolved to local bodies, we hope this report will stimulate those responsible for assessing and determining local priorities to consider how they achieve more from their local and regional rail networks, and why proper two-way  engagement with the rail industry will be essential to deliver service improvements or to maximise capital investment in rail."

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said

"The research exposes the huge disparities in the quality of train services across the country. Importantly, it suggests the answer is to give local administrations more control over their rail networks. By devolving more decision making we can make full use of local knowledge and target investment where it will bring the biggest benefits."

Peter Wilkinson, Director of Franchising, Department for Transport said

“Credo's study raises important issues about the relative performance of the rail industry across the UK. There are challenges for all regions in improving the performance of our railways. We, the industry and local government must consider how we best work together to tackle the issues this report raises."

Benchmarking Rail Services Across Great Britain recommends that each nation and region develop a plan to address the challenges they face. These strategies should consider five key themes:


  • Governance: Each region needs a specific strategy which builds on the strengths of the rail network in that area and a detailed knowledge of the local issues and priorities. Underpinning this must be a close alliance between the local government, the local train companies, Network Rail and the other transport operators.
  • Passenger satisfaction: Passengers want better communication and improved station cleanliness and security.  Those regions which score highest in this area – Scotland and the North West – have good working relationships between passengers and operators to deliver this.
  • Growth: Rail has grown strongly in the past decade but regions have very differing performance. The focus should now be for rail as an engine for economic growth with high quality links between regions and affordable, high capacity services to city centres.
  • Integration: Rail is most effective where it forms part of an integrated transport network. However it is delivered, it is vital that the rail network is seen as a local asset, and all local stakeholders work to ensure its role in an integrated transport network.
  • Investment: Station upgrades, fleet modernisation, capacity enhancements and fare subsidies need to be targeted according to locally identified priorities.

Headline rankings from the report are:



Region / Country Growth & usage (%) Service quality (%) Network accessibility (%) Overall total (%)
 London  73  36  68  59
 North West  47  49  53  50
 West Midlands  51


 41  57  50
 Scotland  40  55  37  44
 South East  56  32  43  44
Yorkshire & Humber  40  35  32  35
 South West  36  23  42  33
 East Midlands  16  49  28  31
 North East  9  47  28  28
 Wales  20  41  22  28
 East of England  40  23  17  26

The full report including methodology can be downloaded from both the Credo and Campaign for Better Transport websites.