'More work to do' admits train operator

EAST Anglian train operator One admitted there was “much more work to be done” yesterday after it achieved the second lowest overall rating in a national passenger survey.

EAST Anglian train operator One admitted there was “much more work to be done” yesterday after it achieved the second lowest overall rating in a national passenger survey.

Although the company saw a 3% rise in customer satisfaction since a similar survey in spring of 2007, its 75% scoring for overall satisfaction in the autumn 2007 National Passenger Survey was just one percentage point above the worst performer.

First Great Western, which is set to be hit by a fare strike next week, came bottom of the league table after its satisfaction rating fell from 77% to 74%.

Commuters travelling from various towns and cities served by the company are staging a “fare strike” next Monday by refusing to show a valid ticket for their journey.

Both its scores and those of One were below the 81% national average for customer satisfaction in the study, by independent rail watchdog Passenger Focus.

However, One's score was unchanged from a similar survey in autumn 2006, and it saw no significant decrease in satisfaction in any area and significant rises in some.

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One said the 3% increase from the spring result was “encouraging”, but admitted there was “still room for improvement in train performance and some areas of customer service to achieve the consistency of service standards passengers expect across the One railway network”.

The next lowest ratings for overall satisfaction were Silverlink (76%), First Capital Connect (77%) and Southeastern (78%).

Train companies with the highest ratings were Gatwick Express (94%), Chiltern Railways (90%), c2c (89%), Heathrow Express (88%), and Merseyrail (87%).

Heathrow Express's satisfaction rating dropped by 8% while First ScotRail's score fell 4% to 84% with passengers criticising the operator for its inability to manage delays.

The survey of nearly 28,000 rail users found that across all train companies only 45% of rail users believe they receive value for money.

Just 24% of passengers were happy with One's toilet facilities on trains, a 1% improvement on its spring result, but some way below a national average of 37%.

The study also found that 43% of One passengers were satisfied with the helpfulness and attitude of staff on trains, compared to 58% nationally, and 23% were satisfied with the availability of staff on trains, while 38% were nationally. Less than a third (31%) of One passengers were happy with how it dealt with delays.

However, at the station,67% were satisfied with the attitudes and helpfulness of One staff, and 54% with their availability, a 3% rise in both cases from the spring survey.

In terms of value for money, 36% of One customers were satisfied, which was 7% more than in the spring, but below the national figure of 45%. Three quarters said they were satisfied with punctuality and reliability, compared to 79% nationally.

One managing director Andrew Chivers said: “It is pleasing that the latest NPS results show an improvement on the previous half-year ratings. Although this improvement is encouraging and endorses the approach we have been taking in investing in more staff, upgrading stations and trains and in delivering a Joint Performance Improvement Plan in partnership with Network Rail, we recognise there is much more work to be done in meeting our customers' expectations.

“We take these results very seriously and the areas where passengers are telling us that further improvement is necessary, such as car parking, cleanliness and in dealing with delays are just some of the key issues we are focusing more investment, better training and partnership working to provide our customers with the high standards of customer service they rightfully expect.”

The national survey was conducted at about 650 stations between September and the end of November 2007.