Pas­sen­ger com­plaints sta­ble, but GTR prob­lems mount

Rail (UK) - - Network News -

Govia Thames­link Rail­way (GTR) ac­counted for nearly a fifth of all pas­sen­ger com­plaints made to train op­er­a­tors in the third quar­ter of 2016-17 (Oc­to­ber-De­cem­ber 2016).

Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures re­leased by the Of­fice of Rail and Road (ORR), the num­ber of pas­sen­ger com­plaints made to train op­er­a­tors in Q3 2016-17 re­mained at the same level as the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod in 2015, at 29.4 com­plaints per 100,000 jour­neys. How­ever, those fig­ures mask a soar­ing in­crease in com­plaints about GTR.

The fig­ures de­tail the num­ber of pas­sen­ger com­plaints that were closed in the quar­ter, rather than those which re­main open.

GTR ac­counted for 19% of all com­plaints made na­tion­ally in the quar­ter, ris­ing by 347.1% com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year. The ORR re­ports says this can “partly be ex­plained by GTR’s poor punc­tu­al­ity dur­ing Q3”. South West Trains recorded a 71.5% in­crease in com­plaints, fol­lowed by South­east­ern (up 33.3%), and Greater Anglia (up 18.3%). These four op­er­a­tors were re­spon­si­ble for just over half of com­plaints closed na­tion­ally.

“The com­plaints rate sta­bil­is­ing in Q3 this year has been caused by the in­crease in com­plaints to Lon­don and South East TOCs. With­out the in­crease at these TOCs the com­plaints rate would have con­tin­ued to fall,” the ORR re­ports.

The fran­chised op­er­a­tor with the high­est com­plaints rate was Vir­gin Trains West Coast, with a fig­ure of 135.5 com­plaints per 100,000 jour­neys, fol­lowed by Greater Anglia (67.5) and Vir­gin Trains East Coast (62.8).

How­ever, al­though their rates were greater than other op­er­a­tors, the greater num­ber of jour­neys made on the likes of GTR means there were more com­plaints over­all for the lat­ter. The low­est fran­chised op­er­a­tor com­plaints rates were achieved by Lon­don Over­ground (1.9), TfL Rail (3.6) and Merseyrail (9.1). Open ac­cess op­er­a­tor Grand Cen­tral recorded the high­est na­tional rate of com­plaints, with a fig­ure of 223.2.

De­spite re­ceiv­ing the high­est rate of com­plaints for fran­chised op­er­a­tors, Vir­gin Trains West Coast also re­ceived the most let­ters of praise, with 9.3 con­tacts per 100,000 jour­neys. Hull Trains re­ceived the high­est rate of praise over­all, with 29.5 con­tacts per 100,000 jour­neys.

Punc­tu­al­ity is the most com­plained-about is­sue, ac­count­ing for 28.5% of all com­plaints, al­though those re­lat­ing to fares and re­tail­ing are also in­creas­ing. ‘Ticket buy­ing fa­cil­i­ties - other’, which cov­ers the ticket buy­ing process, recorded a 4.7 per­cent­age point rise in com­plaints to 8.1% of the to­tal. Over­all, how­ever, the na­tional com­plaints closed rate is still far be­low a peak of 160 per 100,000 jour­neys around the turn of the cen­tury.

The ORR’s sta­tis­tics also show per­for­mance in an­swer­ing com­plaints within 20 work­ing days.

Four op­er­a­tors - Chiltern, CrossCoun­try, GTR and South­east­ern - an­swered all com­plaints in that pe­riod, while at the bot­tom of the ta­ble was Great Western Rail­way, which an­swered 49.6% of com­plaints within the time­frame. Tran­sPen­nine Ex­press (55.6%) and Ar­riva Trains Wales (58.2%) were the other two worst op­er­a­tors in this cat­e­gory.

An av­er­age of 68.5% of com­plaints were made via email or web­sites, re­flect­ing the shift away from tra­di­tional let­ters as the most com­mon con­tact method. As re­cently as 2010-11, postal con­tact was the most com­mon method for com­plaints for all bar three train op­er­a­tors.

The num­ber of calls made to Na­tional Rail En­quiries con­tin­ued its de­cline, with a fig­ure of 692,289 en­quiries in the quar­ter, a fall of 6.8% com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year. This re­flects an an­nual de­cline of 5.5% in calls made dur­ing 201516, to 3.1 mil­lion.

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