Emma Gibson, Director at London TravelWatch, looks at the results of the National Rail Passenger Survey…
Many in the transport industry will know the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS). It is a twice-yearly survey of passenger satisfaction that has been conducted for a number of years by Transport Focus, (the National Rail consumer watchdog). Whilst it is strictly a national survey it can provide a useful snapshot of changing passenger satisfaction with London’s terminal stations managed by Network Rail, and more generally of those managed by train operators.
The range of questions covers issues such as how staff handle requests, satisfaction with toilet facilities and the choice of shops. About half of the survey’s questions relate to stations. 50,000 passengers are surveyed every year and more details are available at: https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/research-publications/publications/national-rail-passenger-survey-nrps-autumn-2019-main-report/
You can do detailed NRPS analysis online on the Transport Focus data hub which can be accessed through the Transport Focus website: www.transportfocus.org.uk
The chart shown tracks passenger satisfaction with stations in the capital using the Autumn surveys only (because there is a seasonal variation). Overall satisfaction varies by station. It is clear that investment at King’s Cross and St Pancras is recognised by passengers as is the recent investment in London Bridge.
Delving down into the questions one can also see how investment in passenger facilities is reflected in the scores. Passengers have recognised and approve of toilet facilities that are now free and in the case of Victoria high quality. The scores also reflect the impact of new, high quality seating at Victoria and London Bridge. The new toilets at Victoria and seating at both stations were a response by Network Rail to recommendations made by London TravelWatch during the regular meetings and station ‘walkabout’ sessions we have with the operator.
The latest NRPS figures show that the percentage of journeys where the seating at London Bridge was described as good has climbed to 59 per cent (from 36 per cent in Autumn 2018) while the percentage of journeys where the new seating at Victoria was described as good rose to 40 per cent (up from 23 per cent in Autumn 2018). 79 per cent described the new toilets as at Victoria as good (up from 68 per cent in Autumn 2018).
Network Rail have now delivered free toilets at the London stations they manage thanks to pressure from London TravelWatch and others. We now want to see other station operators acting to remove toilet charges, particularly at Blackfriars, which is operated by Govia Thameslink; Marylebone, which is operated by Chiltern Railways, and some London Underground stations.
Euston, highlighted above, is the lowest scoring station with a significant decline in scores over the last year. Indeed, only the toilet facility question scored higher than in Autumn 2018. Clearly the works at Euston are having an impact and there is a need for some focus on improving its performance in the short term.
We know from the NRPS that passengers’ key priorities are value for money fares, getting a seat and train service reliability but they also really care about the station environment. At situations where reliability is poor, crowding on trains occurs, fares do not seem value for money and passengers will notice the poor quality of facilities and services at stations. Often it will be the small things that passengers notice most, like toilet provision.
Transport users take notice of the facilities and station environment at small stations as well as the large ones. London TravelWatch research has highlighted the importance of getting this right in its report; Small stations – Too Big to Forget, which assesses the needs of passengers at small stations with under a million passengers a year. You can read the report here: https://www.londontravelwatch.org.uk/documents/get_lob?id=4401&field=file
Similarly, stations of all types and sizes need to be thought of as interchanges. Large numbers of passengers will ‘interchange’ as a matter of course between car and train, train and bike, bus and train, or walking. It is essential to get it right at an interchange as the experience will be a major influence on whether people choose rail or not.
London TravelWatch has produced a very easy to use tool to assess whether a station is good as an interchange or not: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/interchangematters
Whether stations are large or small, the station environment and facilities pay an important part in passengers’ perceptions of value for money. Relatively small improvements can make a huge difference to passengers’ day to day journeys, particularly those who are less mobile or travelling with small children and we would like to see station operators continue to pay attention to these less high profile issues. If they do, we are confident that their efforts will continue to pay dividends in terms of improved NRPS scores.
You can find further details about the work London TravelWatch does on its website, www.londontravelwatch.org.uk
Emma Gibson is Director at London TravelWatch