Passenger Focus

Partner update to Shrewsbury Aberystwyth Railway Liaison Committee:

Passenger Focus – July 2012

 

Ticket to Ride? – Passenger Focus have published major new research

It is right and proper that passengers buy a ticket. Passenger Focus has never had a problem with the rail industry taking steps to catch those who deliberately set out to avoid payment – those who do are effectively being subsidised by everyone else. In doing so, however, train companies must make sure they do not scoop up those who make an innocent mistake alongside those who deliberately set out to avoid paying. Our investigations reveal that this is not always the case – for example, people who forget to bring their railcard with them may well face the same punishment as those who set out to avoid paying altogether.

•        Consistency: While the basic ‘rules’ are common to all train companies there is considerable discretion and inconsistency in how they are applied. This covers not only the nature and extent of any punishment but also the degree of protection offered.

•        Discretion: The first point of contact is when a member of staff finds someone without a valid ticket. Some on-train staff will simply sell a ticket while others will choose to take action for ticketless travel. Showing the right amount of discretion at this stage is always going to be a question of balance and judgement. But even if staff only get it wrong occasionally the consequences for the individual concerned can be severe.

•        Fairness: This is probably the main complaint from passengers – often with good cause. It is widely acknowledged that we have a complex fare structure. It can sometimes be difficult to get all the information needed in order to buy the right ticket and yet we routinely encounter passengers who are being penalised for travelling at the wrong time, on the wrong train, or on the wrong route.

•        Accountability: Train companies can outsource many aspects of revenue protection. How these third parties act seems to depend a great deal on the specific contract they have with the train company. Some are even able to process cases up to debt collection or criminal prosecution level without engaging the train company.

•        Transparency: At present we only have details of the cases we have received ourselves – there is no information from the industry as to how many fines are issued or prosecutions mounted. We think there should be. Not only will this provide a better sense of scale but, generally speaking, more transparency drives more accountability.

What we want. – We set out below four key areas that we want train companies to improve:

•        Introduce a code of practice for use in non-penalty fare areas which sets out clear and consistent guidelines on how passengers who board without a valid ticket should be dealt with.

•        Passengers should not face a criminal prosecution without proof of intent to defraud.

•        Greater flexibility where a passenger can prove they bought a valid ticket but cannot produce the ticket when required.

•        Greater transparency of how many penalties are issued, for what, and how many appeals are subsequently upheld or overturned.

 

Passenger advice

In 2011-12 Passenger Focus’s advice team was contacted by more than 14500 passengers. Over 3000 were ‘appeal complaints’ where passengers asked Passenger Focus to help because they were dissatisfied with how the train company dealt with their complaint. Last year almost £84,000 of extra compensation for passengers was secured and 81% of passengers were satisfied with the way Passenger Focus handled their case. The main issues raised by passengers relate to fares and ticketing and the way complaints were handled – with operators East Coast, First Great Western and Virgin Trains generating the most appeal complaints.

 

The Future of Public Transport

Passenger Focus is carrying out an innovative piece of future trends research in order to understand:

•        how public transport will develop in the future and what trends will affect it

•        how these trends might change passenger expectations, needs and behaviours

•        the implications for types of service and experiences (including technology) that passengers will expect.

As we are in an unpredictable and fast-moving world, this report will not focus on making grand predictions (as transport has been guilty of in the past, most notably in an obsession with jet-packs and personal travel pods available to all). It will instead outline the direction and signs of significant change to provide good start-points for Passenger Focus to be part of innovating and setting the future transport agenda. The report will be published during the summer.

 

National Passenger Survey Spring 2012

The latest wave of results were published on 28th June 2012. Satisfaction with Britain’s railways holds up at 83% of passengers satisfied overall with their journey. However, this overall figure masks enormous variations on different routes and widely differing value for money scores.

 

Findings include:

  • Satisfaction with value for money dipping to 42% from 44% in Spring 2011.
  • Passengers using different tickets giving very disparate scores for value for money.
  • Comparing the views of Advance and Off-Peak ticket holders who think that the railway is reasonably good value, with Season ticket holders who do not. For example, value for money scores for Advance tickets on CrossCountry and Virgin Trains were 64% and 68%, while the scores for Annual Season tickets on Southeastern and South West Trains were 12% and 23% (respectively).

 

Key scores for Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) are shown in the table below. Selected factors are compared against the same wave last year and also with the results for regional-sector train companies in this wave:

 

National Passenger Survey

ATW

Spring 2011

ATW

Spring 2012

Regional

Spring 2012

Overall satisfaction

87%

88%

86%

Overall satisfaction with the station

76%

79%

80%

Connections with other forms

of transport

61%

66%

68%

Personal security at the station

62%

67%

71%

Frequency of trains on the route

81%

78%

80%

Punctuality & reliability

84%

87%

85%

Value for money for the price of

the ticket

60%

56%

54%

Sufficient room for passengers

to sit/stand

70%

71%

73%

How well train company dealt with delays

43%

40%

35%

 

 

 

Further details on these topics are available from our website at www.pasengerfocus.org.uk.