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East Anglia: Commuters’ shock at rail survey outcome

PUBLISHED: 09:16 30 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:17 30 January 2013

Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to Cambridge route via Ely. (Class 170). Photo: Bill Smith

Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to Cambridge route via Ely. (Class 170). Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2012

A RAIL users’ group says it is “very surprised” after Greater Anglia was named the most improved train service in the country.

Autumn 2012 results

83% – Overall satisfaction rated either good or satisfactory

83% – Punctuality and reliability rated either good or satisfactory

37% – Value for money rated either good or satisfactory

70% – Sufficient room for all passengers to sit or stand was rated either good or satisfactory

79% – Overall satisfaction with the station rated either good or satisfactory

Official rail watchdog Passenger Focus published its National Passenger Survey (NPS) yesterday, which revealed 83% of travellers rated the East Anglia service as either good or satisfactory in the final months of 2012.

In contrast, the region’s rail travellers had the lowest satisfaction levels in the country in March 2012 when just 73% said the service was either good or satisfactory. The 10% hike in approval ratings was the biggest increase in England.

But angry commuters, who have suffered a string of delays and cancellations this month, have hit back – branding the survey an inaccurate reflection of reality and failing to “paint the gloomy picture it should”.

And it wasn’t all good news in the survey for Greater Anglia. It also showed only 37% of travellers felt they got value for money – the joint-worst in the country – with 42% rating it poor or unsatisfactory.

Passengers’ Opinions

Frustrated commuter Stuart Jackson, who has commuted from Ipswich to London daily since 1999, said: “The statistics do not bear any relation to my daily experience.

“We had a good period around the Olympics but the service has deteriorated enormously in the last couple of months.

“I am frequently late for work; several times each week at the moment.”

Alec Allsop, who runs the Twitter parody account Later Anglia, said: “The service is consistently delayed and it begs the question whether or not Greater Anglia feel their timetables are more ‘guidelines’.

“I think the main source of anger from commuters has been the increase in fare price after considering the stark lack of improvement on a daily commute.”

Imogen Dempsey, who commutes three days a week from London to Marks Tey, said: “Commuters paying thousands of pounds each year to use the line deserve far better than the endless delays and excuses we suffer.

“The older train units are overdue for replacement and are regularly very dirty, with broken or very worn seating commonplace.”

Greater Anglia still ranks as the joint fourth-worst train operator out of the 23 companies compiled in terms of overall satisfaction.

Neil Skinner, chairman of the Manningtree Rail Users’ Association, said: “I am very surprised by the findings. The level of dissatisfaction we are hearing is definitely on the up.

“People are hacked off having to pay extra for a worse service. The conditions of the trains, for example, are getting tackier by the day. People want value for money for trains that turn up on time.

“In Greater Anglia’s defence a lot of the problems are beyond their control. The infrastructure has been in decline for decades and signal problems are not their fault.

“But I would like to see who they asked in the survey – people on day trips or early-morning commuters? They would cast a far more critical eye on the service.”

Only 4% of the 2,120 passengers surveyed between the start of September and the middle of November in 2012 described their overall satisfaction as poor or unsatisfactory.

When Dutch train firm Abellio took over the Greater Anglia train franchise from National Express East Anglia in February 2012, it said its first priority was to improve customer service.

Ruud Haket, managing director of Greater Anglia, said: “These are very encouraging results. I am pleased that the efforts the team has made to invest in and improve customer service, combined with the closer working alliance with Network Rail, is already delivering better customer service and performance.

“We recognise there is more to do and our focus is to build on these improved levels of satisfaction and to continue to invest in improving the service we offer our passengers.”

A Greater Anglia spokesperson added: “Performance has not deteriorated since the Olympics and the figures published for the period ended 5 January 2013 saw a new high for the moving annual average punctuality for Greater Anglia of 92.2% – the best since the current structure for the East Anglia franchise was established in 2004.

“The past couple of weeks has seen a number of performance issues that have affected some of our services, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience that may have caused customers.

“We are continuing to work closely with Network Rail to deliver consistent and improving levels of punctuality to build on the progress made over the past year.”

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