Passenger satisfaction with ScotRail improves from 14-year low

Passenger satisfaction with ScotRail has increased from a 14-year low to 85 per cent, the latest National Rail Passenger Survey by official watchdog Transport Focus showed today.
ScotRail has drafted in a rail executive in an effort to improve below-par performance. Picture: Michael GillenScotRail has drafted in a rail executive in an effort to improve below-par performance. Picture: Michael Gillen
ScotRail has drafted in a rail executive in an effort to improve below-par performance. Picture: Michael Gillen

The train operator's rating was up 2 percentage points last autumn compared to the previous year.

However, it remains 5 points below the record-equal high of 90 per cent which ScotRail scored in spring last year.

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The results of the survey of 1,400 passengers come weeks after the firm drafted in former TransPennine Express rail chief Nick Donovan to review performance after it fell below target - despite an improvement plan being in force for 15 months.

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ScotRail's scored for availability of power sockets on trains (40 per cent satisfied), wi-fi availability at stations (41 per cent) and reliability of internet connection on trains, station toilets and car parking (42 per cent).

Its highest scores were for journey times (91 per cent) and train information and staff helpfulness at stations (88 per cent).

The firm also significantly improved on its past Achilles heel - dealing with delays - which was up 13 points to 51 per cent.

Overall, 49 per cent thought fares were value for money, but this varied between 49 per cent among passengers on "inter urban" routes outside Strathclyde and 75 per cent on rural lines.

Inter urban passengers were also least happy with punctuality and reliability (80 per cent) while nearly all rural travellers were content (96 per cent). It was 82 per cent overall.

Crowding on trains was also worst for inter urban passengers, with 66 per cent satisfied compared to 71 per cent in Strathclyde and 75 peer cent on other urban routes.

It was 71 per cent overall, which was 8 points worse than last spring, the first time it had been measured.

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Transport Focus said: "As some station and train factors have a seasonal component to the results, the main comparison we use is against the survey results one year previously."

Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “For passengers, it’s all about performance.

"It’s essential that the ScotRail and Network Rail Alliance continue their focus on ensuring most trains arrive on time, with few cancellations and with carriages of the right length.

“Transport Focus welcomes the independent review of train services that ScotRail announced earlier this month to further improve performance.”

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman Jamie Greene said: “It is no surprise satisfaction levels in Scotland have fallen [compared to last spring], it’s been a tough few months for ScotRail in terms of performance.

“Those who pay handsomely to use rail services are continually dismayed as services are cancelled, late, overcrowded or miss out stops.

“The great work that staff on our railways perform is undermined by overcrowding, overpriced tickets and an unreliable service.

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“It about time the SNP and the transport minister stepped up to the mark or we will see satisfaction drift further.”

ScotRail said its score compared to an average of 81 per cent for train operators across Britain and it was the best among the five largest operators.

Among cross-Border operators, Virgin Trains East Coast's score was unchanged at 92 per cent, Virgin Train West Coast's was up 2 points to 91 per cent, CrossCountry's was down 1 point to 83 per cent and TransPennine Express' down 3 points to 81 per cent.

ScotRail Alliance managing director Alex Hynes said: “This survey shows customer satisfaction has improved compared to this time last year, and is a clear sign of the progress ScotRail is making.

“Our people work hard to deliver the best possible service for our customers.

"The evidence of this was clearer than ever in recent weeks, as our people in ScotRail and Network Rail Scotland kept customers moving during the worst of the winter snow and ice.

“We aren’t complacent, and we’re working hard to build the best railway that Scotland has ever had.

"The investment we are making in new and refurbished trains will deliver faster journeys, more seats, and better services for our customers across Scotland."

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Transport minister Humza Yousaf said: "The improvement on customer satisfaction levels in comparison to the same period last year is to be welcomed.

"We can and will do more to ensure we improve on performance and the customer experience.

"Through continuous monitoring, Transport Scotland routinely challenge ScotRail, and the ongoing independent review by Nick Donovan will look to propose steps to improve performance."