Leader: ScotRail can't afford to let standards slip

RELAX - let the train take the strain. Except for ScotRail, where the train puts the strain on you.

The company is the only train operator whose customer satisfaction rating has dropped "significantly" over the past year, according to a passenger survey. Some 5 per cent fewer passengers were happy with the service. ScotRail can fairly claim that it's the bigger number that surely matters: 86 per cent of passengers said they were happy with the service. Given the wide geographical area covered, the diversity of passengers and their needs, that is an encouragingly high satisfaction rate, while leaving plenty of room for improvement.

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Ticket prices were a big source of complaint. Just 56 per cent said they were satisfied with value for money from the ticket price regime. The results also reflected rail travel experiences during the appalling weather of December and January, when severe frost and snow disrupted all transport across Scotland. The plus points for ScotRail were availability of on-train staff and helpfulness, where the scores were notably higher than the UK average, and station cleanliness. But it is vital that the service is reliable, that customers are kept informed and that tariffs are not bewilderingly complex. Rail travel is back in vogue. ScotRail needs to be up to the challenge this presents.