Mixed reviews for Kent rail operators in passenger survey
Kent rail passengers have signalled that Southeastern services are getting better.
But there is less good news for the strike-hit operator Southern.
According to the latest survey carried out by the passenger watchdog Transport Focus, satisfaction ratings for Southern were the worst of all operators.
Services run by the company have been blighted by a long-running dispute over the introduction of driver-only trains and the frustration felt by rail users over strikes and delays has resulted in an overall satisfaction rating of 72%.
While Southern – which runs services in Ashford to Brighton and others in west Kent – emerged as the worst in the country there was better news for Southeastern.
The operator saw its overall satisfaction rating at 81%: that represents a 10% increase since a similar survey in spring 2016.
However, the cost of travel on Southeastern services remains an issue. While 38% of those surveyed said they were satisfied – up 6% – 40% said they were dissatisfied with ticket prices.
On punctuality, Southeastern saw its rating rise by 14% to 72% while Southern saw a 5% improvement, but to just 57%.
On over-crowded trains, 69% of users of Southeastern services said they were satisfied with the capacity of trains: for Southern, the figure was 67%.
On dealing with delays, Southeastern’s rating was unchanged with 36% saying they were satisfied compared to 28% for Southern.
Transport Focus said passengers in London and the South East were overall more satisfied with their railway journeys after a long period of patchy performance.
For London and South East operators, 82 per cent of passengers were very or fairly satisfied overall, compared to 79% in spring 2016.
David Statham, managing director for Southeastern, said: “We’re really pleased that passenger satisfaction has significantly improved and 8 in 10 of our passengers are satisfied with our service.
“This a direct result of the hard work and commitment of our employees who take care of our passengers’ needs day in and day out.
“We have invested more in customer service training, and kept a determined focus on trains arriving at the right time.”
He said joining Network Rail had helped minimise delays and improve performance.
A spokesman for Southern said: “Though the improvement in our passenger’s satisfaction is modest, we are pleased to see it moving in the right direction.”
“We are currently in the midst of a far-reaching modernisation programme.
“We know this has been a difficult period for our passengers and for our staff but performance is now improving, and punctuality had improved for six months in a row during the period these results reflect.”
Andrew Smith, the chief executive of Transport Focus, said: “These green shoots are fragile and need nurturing.
“This recovery will be under pressure from upgrade works, industrial relationship problems and rising passenger numbers.
“The industry needs to keep a relentless, ongoing focus on performance and reliability.”
David Statham, managing director for Southeastern, was pleased passenger satisfaction has significantly improved during the past year