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Fall in rail passenger satisfaction

Attacks on Britain's privatised railways have increased after a new study showed that the number of rail passengers satisfied with their journey is "significantly down" compared with a year ago.

A huge survey of 27,000 passengers found that 81% expressed satisfaction with their journey when questioned last autumn, 2% down on the previous autumn.

The study, by watchdog Passenger Focus, did not include the Christmas period, when trains into London King's Cross were seriously disrupted, or the delays and cancellations suffered by thousands of passengers so far this year.

Satisfaction levels varied between 74% and 94% for different train companies, with the highest-scoring operators Heathrow Express and Grand Central, (both 94%) and Chiltern (93%), while the lowest-scored were Govia Thameslink and Southern (both with 77%) and Southeastern (74%).

Southeastern's overall satisfaction score fell 11% compared to a year ago, while Cross Country's dropped 4% in a year.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, said: "Rail passengers' satisfaction is driven by getting trains on time. Many are being let down - fare increases, billions in Government investment and promises of improvement don't seem to be delivering change on the ground.

"The high-profile disruption after Christmas and at London Bridge will only have added to the gloom.

"Passengers do not care who is to blame for things going wrong and for some of them the timetable is a work of fiction. If it really is the case that better day-to-day performance can't be achieved, then an honest, open debate is now needed so that passengers might be able to trust the promises made by the industry again."

The number of passengers who believed their trains were punctual and reliable also fell by 2%, to 77%.

The only areas where satisfaction improved were shops, eating and drinking facilities and other services at railway stations.

There was a decline in other areas monitored, including train speed and enough room to sit down or stand on a train.

Fewer than half of passengers believed fares offered value for money, similar to the previous year.

Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: "It is hardly surprising that passenger satisfaction is falling when commuters are paying record high fares for a worsening service.

"Southern and Southeastern are the worst offenders in delays and cancellations. When you look at real-time delays, barely one in two trains on time.

"And for this, many passengers are paying £4,000 and £5,000 for an annual season ticket. It is an absolute disgrace."

Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, representing rail operators and Network Rail, said: "These results show how passenger satisfaction has been dipping after years of steady improvement and they reinforce our determination to do better."

Rail Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said: "This report throws up yet more evidence that two decades of privatisation, fragmentation and under-investment on Britain's railways have left passengers angry and frustrated as they see the hard cash they pay over for extortionate fares drained away in profits to the train operating companies."

There were wide variations within individual routes with passenger satisfaction over value for money (from 29% to 86%), punctuality (56% to 98%) and enough room on trains (43% to 95%).

David Statham, managing director for Southeastern, said: " We recognise that we have a lot more work to do to ensure that our passengers are more satisfied with the service that we provide. My senior team and I have been out and about around our network seeing first-hand how our service operates and listening to passengers' concerns.

"Over the next three years we're investing more than £70 million in the things that our passengers tell us are important to them."

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: "We are investing record amounts of money in our railways to improve journeys for passengers. But this welcome long-term investment has to be made in a way that does not mean unacceptable delays for passengers travelling today.

"These statistics show that Network Rail and many train operators have to work together to improve reliability and communications around delays. I want passengers to see and feel the benefits of this huge investment as soon as possible."

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said: "This demonstrates once again that under David Cameron rail passengers are being let down and ripped off, and it shows that things have got worse on our railways.

"Since 2010, overall passenger satisfaction with their journey is down, the percentage of passengers satisfied with punctuality is down and the percentage of passengers satisfied with value for money is also down. Across the board, passengers are saying the service they receive is getting worse."

There was chaos on Thameslink services this evening, with some northbound services out of London St Pancras running more than 50 minutes late or being cancelled and commuters forced to cram onto trains. Announcements blamed the delays on "safety checks being made".

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