One of EPF’s UK members, Transport Focus, speaks to tens of thousands of passengers each year as part of large-scale ‘tracker’ surveys and smaller bespoke insight reports.  The organisation, which is publicly funded, is the independent watchdog representing the interests of Britain’s rail passengers (excluding Northern Ireland), of bus and tram passengers in England (outside London) and passengers on scheduled domestic coach services in England. Transport Focus also represents users of England’s major roads. It has drawn on that insight to publish a precise view of what rail passengers want. A high-level summary, with links to original research for those wanting greater detail, can be freely accessed here.

The research identifies the importance for passengers and potential passengers of an affordable, punctual, reliable, frequent service on which you can get a seat or, at the very least, stand in comfort.  Recent research shows that the pandemic has not changed these core priorities.  Punctuality is still the biggest driver of overall satisfaction, but there is an added emphasis on personal safety and cleanliness. There is also a much more heightened awareness of personal space (or lack of) on board trains.

The research also covered non-users.  It found that two main factors drive modal choice: cost of the journey and convenience. Cost is invariably a comparison between rail fares and the cost of petrol and parking. Convenience can take many forms: for some it is the overall door-to-door journey time that matters, for others it’s comfort, the potential to work/relax while travelling or the ability to travel when they want.

The summary was prepared as input into the planning of the new state-owned public body that will oversee most rail transport in Great Britain from 2023. This will replace the present national rail infrastructure manager, Network Rail, and control the contracting of passenger train services to railway undertakings, the setting of fares and timetables, and the collection of fare revenue in most of England. (There are different arrangements for Scotland and Wales).

Although the research is concerned with the situation in Great Britain, readers may find that it reflects similar priorities elsewhere in Europe.

Christopher Irwin