Poll: Abellio Greater Anglia defends franchise record as survey finds only one in three rail passengers get value for money – Ipswich MP Ben Gummer says ‘service is not good enough’

An Abellio Greater Anglia train at Colchester

An Abellio Greater Anglia train at Colchester - Credit: Archant

Only around one in three rail passengers get value for money in the region, a study has found.

A survey of 2,164 Abellio Greater Anglia passengers found 80% expressed satisfaction with their journey when questioned last autumn, the same proportion as the previous autumn.

The overall satisfaction level ranked the train operator as the joint fifth-worst out of 23 nationwide, with scores ranging from 74% to 94%.

The study, by watchdog Passenger Focus, found only 37% of Abellio Greater Anglia passengers believed fares offered value for money – the second worst rate in the country. The national average was 46%.

The proportion of passengers who also believed their trains were punctual and reliable fell by 1%, to 77%.

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The survey comes after the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce, made up of MPs and business leaders, called last year for a £476 million investment to enable trains to run between London and Norwich in 90 minutes and between London and Ipswich in 60 minutes.

Last December, Chancellor George Osborne pledged further investment in the route, saying the government would “do what it takes” to get faster trains. His intervention meant the next private company to win the contract to run the line is likely to be forced to provide fresh trains.

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Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said an incoming Labour government would honour any commitment to upgrade the main rail line from London to East Anglia.

The Department for Transport has already asked Network Rail to continue developing improvements to the speed of the line over the next few years.

Network Rail has said it already has its plans in place for work to the track, signals and overhead lines to achieve the faster, more reliable services set out by the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce.

Meanwhile, today’s published survey also found that out of the 35 questions used to determine passenger satisfaction levels in station and train facilities, Abellio Greater Anglia scored only three above-average results.

It found: 35% of passengers were satisfied with how Abellio Greater Anglia deals with delays (down 4%); 75% were satisfied with the frequency of trains on the route (down 2%); 81% were satisfied with the length of time the journey was scheduled to take (speed) (no change); 46% were satisfied with luggage space (down 1%); 64% were satisfied there was sufficient room for all passengers to sit/stand (down 6%); 52% were satisfied with the upkeep and repair of the train; 59% were satisfied with the provision of information during the journey (up 1%); 24% were satisfied with the availability of staff on the train (no change); and 47% were satisfied with car parking facilities at train stations (up 2%).

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said: “The survey confirms what people who use trains in Suffolk already know that the service is not good enough and is not providing value for money that people expect.

“We have a great deal of work to do and I am certain that should we get a Conservative-led government in May we will be able to deliver on the hundreds of millions of pounds of investment that the chancellor has put aside.

“It will be one of my priorities to make sure that between now and 2020 we fully modernise our train service so people get the quality and value for money that they rightly expect.”

He added that it was government policy to provide longer rail franchises, which he said would give train operators “more space to invest”.

Derek Monnery, the chairman of Essex Rail Users Federation, said: “The survey is not particularly surprising. We have had 10 years of short-termism; an under-funding of the rail service because the first franchise, the National Express one which ran for seven years, was a franchise with no investment and now we have had two Abellio Greater Anglia franchises which are very short.

“So on that basis you have got a very tired looking fleet of trains, a running stock in poor order and an infrastructure which needs an overhaul to become more reliable.

“Passengers want reliability, trains that are on time and are reasonably comfortable, and things like wi-fi and power points in trains.”

He added that he would not object to Abellio Greater Anglia being given a third consecutive and longer franchise next year to carry out improvements.

In a statement, Abellio Greater Anglia said: “Overall we will be investing £31.5m in customer service, performance and rolling stock improvements through the course of the franchise to October 2016. In addition, Network Rail is investing £170m in further improvements to the Great Eastern Main Line in 2015.

“Historically, there has not been significant investment in East Anglia’s railways for decades and that is why, together with the region’s MPs and the Local Enterprise Partnership, we have been leading the way in making the case for more investment through the work of the Great Eastern Main Line Taskforce. This is being supported by the Government.

“Since February 2012, Government has let short franchise contracts for the Greater Anglia franchise and clearly that limits the ability for train operators to generate the significant investment required for major changes in areas such as new trains for example.

“The long franchise for Greater Anglia is due to commence in October 2016 and that will present a key opportunity for greater investment.

“On punctuality, Abellio Greater Anglia’s most recent average punctuality figure for the year ended 3 January 2015 is 90.9%. The national average punctuality covering all Britain’s railways up to this date is 89.6%.”

Jamie Burles, managing director of Abellio Greater Anglia, added: “Although customer satisfaction has remained consistent in the Autumn 2014 survey, we know there is much more to do to improve train service performance and customer service in key areas such as cleaning and rolling stock upgrades.

“We have now announced investment of over £30m in our current short franchise to October 2016 to improve the on-train environment, employ more train cleaners, recruit more technicians to increase rolling stock reliability and provide more customer service staff, as well as upgrade the Mark III carriages on our intercity services.

“We have more initiatives planned - both new projects and the completion of projects already announced, such as the introduction of more Sunday timetable improvements and enhancements to the customer compensation claims process.

“We are absolutely committed to consistently raising customer service standards and improving customer satisfaction.”

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