What do passengers make of the rail service in Suffolk and Essex?

A passenger waits at Norwich Train Station. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A passenger waits at Norwich Train Station. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The region’s biggest train operator says it is determined to improve customer satisfaction amid a fall in how happy people are with the service they receive.

Delays on Ipswich train station after over running engineering works

Delays on Ipswich train station after over running engineering works - Credit: Lucy taylor

In day three of our series on the region’s train services we have analysed Transport Focus passenger survey scores in eight areas since spring 2011.

Overall satisfaction with Abellio Greater Anglia fell from 78% in 2011 to 75% in 2015, while the results have worsened in seven of the eight specific areas.

In the latest survey, which sees 16,000 interviewed nationwide, just one in four were satisfied with the time taken to resolve delays, a third with value for money and fewer than half with attitudes of staff on the train.

Abellio took over the Greater Anglia franchise from National Express East Anglia in February 2012.

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Peter Meades, a Greater Anglia spokesman, said the spring 2015 results had come on the back of eight weeks of engineering works.

He added: “We acknowledged at the time the spring 2015 results were published our disappointment, compared with the 80% achieved in autumn 2014 and 81% in spring 2014 surveys, and other positive survey results during the operation of the franchise.

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“We are determined to do better in meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations by continuously improving service standards. An extensive, £35.5m programme of investment is now well underway, which should deliver tangible improvements for passengers, and the company is also evaluating further initiatives to help provide a better, more consistent service.

“Over 50 additional cleaners have been recruited over recent months and the impact of that additional focus is beginning to have an effect.

Passenger satisfaction: How do they compare

Passenger satisfaction: How do they compare - Credit: Archant

“More technicians and engineers have also been recruited to help improve the performance of the train fleet over the course of the current franchise through to October 2016.

“We also recognise that there is much more that needs to be done to improve customer service, station facilities and deliver more consistent punctuality in the coming months.”

Linda McCord, of Transport Focus, said: “Passengers tell us their biggest priorities for improvement are better value for money fares, being able to get a seat on the train, service frequency and punctuality.

“Abellio Greater Anglia’s overall satisfaction score was disappointing. They acknowledge this and are very keen to improve passenger satisfaction scores in further surveys.”

What the passengers thought on a recent trip to London

For regular passengers on the Great Eastern Main Line a punctual arrival may not quite be a rarity; but it is a talking point.

When the 8.30am Norwich to London Liverpool Street service pulled in at its scheduled time on a recent Friday there was a note of surprise among some of those disembarking.

“That’s two days running, it’s arrived on time,” one passenger remarked to his friend. “It must be a miracle.”

Peter Woolf, a 58-year-old lecturer from Norwich, was unimpressed by the usual standards of service.

“I travel all over the country for my work and this particular line is by far the worst,” he said. “It’s never punctual, it’s often delayed and there’s a total lack of communication.”

“We are so far behind the rest of the country in terms of our trains that it feels like East Anglia has become the place that time forgot,” he added.

Mark Barrell, who was travelling from Bury St Edmunds, takes the train to London several times a month on business, and said there were often delays as it neared Liverpool Street.

“Whether it’s two minutes, five minutes, or half an hour, it’s rarely on time,” he added.

For Adrienne Wakeling, a charity worker from Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, the problem was where to buy a ticket.

“There’s no machine at the station, which means I have to pay to have them delivered to my house or pay full price from the conductor,” she said.

Not all passengers had cause for complaint.

Mark, pictured, and Judy Phillips, from Beccles, said they were rarely delayed but found the vast differences in fares to be confusing.

“Prices are very variable,” Mrs Phillips said. “I went to book online and it was going to cost us £200 for the two of us to get to London and back. Then when I booked two singles it worked out cheaper, but it was still £14 one way and then £30 the other.”

Rob Wood, pictured, 76, from Sudbury, travels by train “a couple of times a month”. “I don’t really have a great deal of problems,” he said. “Usually they are pretty good.”

Gaurav Sharma, 39, said he had been making weekly journeys from Ipswich to the capital for the past three years and rarely suffered major delays.

“Most of the time it’s fine,” he said.

Survey findings

Abellio Mainline: For mainline services, journeys from London to Ipswich, plus branches to Harwich, Clacton, Walton, Sudbury, Southminster and Braintree, the figures were worse than the overall in every area bar for overall condition of the station.

Abellio has at least improved train punctuality and frequency since taking over, though satisfaction with attitude of staff and time to resolve complaints saw considerable reductions.

Abellio Intercity: Intercity services, journeys between Norwich and London, have a greater overall satisfaction than the company average at 77%, but this has fallen by six percentage points since 2011, as have five out of eight key areas.

Train punctuality, upkeep and repair of trains and frequency all saw considerable drops, but satisfaction with time to resolve delays and the station overall were greatly improved.

Abellio Rural: The biggest concern for rural customers, journeys on Ipswich to Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Cambridge and Peterborough lines, plus Norwich to Lowestoft, Yarmouth, Sheringham and Cambridge lines, appears to be value for money. Satisfaction has fallen in the four years from 57% to 44%. The line did at least outperform Abellio’s overall average in five of the eight areas.

Great Northern Line: Govia Thameslink became operators of the Northern Line, which runs from King’s Lynn to King’s Cross, from First Capital Connect in September 2014.

Overall satisfaction remains high at 80% and has risen under the new operators. That has been the case in four of the eight key areas.

The line outperformed Abellio in six of the eight categories, but just a third are satisfied with the attitude of staff on trains, three out of 10 the time to resolve delays and four out of ten the value for money.

Elsewhere: Both Virgin Trains, which operates from London to other major cities, and Cross Country, outperformed Abellio in all key areas, while Northern Rail did the same in all bar one.

Nine out of 10 Virgin Trains customers are satisfied with their overall experience of travelling with the operator.

Visit our website to see the results in full and take part in our passenger survey.

Dissatisfaction with Network Rail

Every year Network Rail conducts a survey of operators and the latest results for Anglia will be a worry.

Its 2014 customer survey, published in January, found that the overall satisfaction of operators towards Network Rail had fallen by 51 percentage points from 83% to just 32%.

Network Rail listed three key action points to improve the figures.

Take part in our survey on rail travel here.

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