Railwatch

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Railwatch 071 - April 1997

Are you happy dear?

There are already desperate attempts to prove that rail privatisation - even though it is not yet complete - has been a success or a failure.

Save Our Railways to which RDS is affiliated insists that it has failed in every key respect.

It says much of the network is run down and in need of major investment while Railtrack has underspent its maintenance budget by 25%. The overall cost of running the railways however has doubled to nearly £2 billion.

It points out that Supersavers and other fares are not protected, information is poor and the operators have been allowed the option under their franchises to implement massive service cuts.

On the other side, we have heard of dubious surveys being carried out on some of the newly privatised train services. The questionnaires are constructed so that the only result can be: "Everything in the garden is lovely."

By contrast, RDS organised its own survey of passengers last summer with the honest aim of highlighting where things can be improved.

All members were invited to take part in the passenger committee action.

Our survey showed a strong need to retain station ticket offices and through ticketing.

Most people want a walk-on service without having to book, although there is obviously a place for pre-booked tickets where these lead to a saving in cost and a seat reservation.

It was pleasing to see that ticket checking on trains does seem fairly thorough in contrast to earlier RDS surveys.

A worrying number of people felt information was biased in favour of a particular operator.

More interchange information is necessary particularly for the disabled.

Passenger information at un-staffed stations needs to be improved. Long-line public address would help, but in the absence of this, a telephone linked to a local signal box would be helpful.

Often it is difficult to find information on other modes of transport. Stations should display timetable and destination information for bus services.

More and better use should be made of the television Teletext facility in reporting delays and other problems.

Most of our respondents returned by the same route but around 15% returned by another route. Around 30% broke their journey for reasons other than changing trains. This would suggest a strong need to retain the "any reasonable route principle" of ticketing. Tickets should be issued for the convenience of the travelling public rather than the convenience of the accountants.

Around 25% of those who changed trains had experienced some sort of problem. This ranged from missed trains to having to wait too long for their connecting train. We feel that the number experiencing problems is unacceptably high.

Most of our respondents had not noticed much change in the punctuality of their trains but the Bedford-Bletchley line seems to be a blackspot.

Throughout Britain, there were worrying comments concerning the frequency of Sunday services and the increasing inflexibility and complication of the system.

So far it seems travelling patterns have not changed significantly due to privatisation. However, it is obvious from the survey that flexibility of journeys/routeing is a major plus for rail travel. It must be retained.

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.


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