/ Travel & Leisure

Train pains: how would you want passenger views represented?

Train station

A £50bn investment plan to change Britain’s railways has been unveiled with proposals to improve customer representation. So how would you want your voice heard?

Every day, millions up and down the country travel on Britain’s trains. While some may be happy with their service, we know there are thousands, at the very least almost 100,000 who have added their name to our rail campaign, that all-together really aren’t that happy.

Well today, train companies, suppliers and Network Rail have joined together and laid out their plans to invest and improve our railways. And one way that better rail experience will be delivered is through improved customer representation. So how would you want to be represented?

Passenger experiences

The industry’s trade association, the Rail Delivery Group, announced the ‘In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity’ plan today. This plan includes a proposal for a ‘stronger voice for customers in England and Wales with customer representation on joint supervisory boards, or an equivalent – a partnership between the rail industry and customer groups’.

The full details of what this really means aren’t yet clear. While we’re keen to hear more, we want it to be clear that if this is going to have any meaningful impact then passengers need to be put first in these plans.

As a commuter, I vary in the opinion of my train operator. I regularly get a seat on the way into London, it’s often on time and overall it’s a pretty quick service with regular trains.

However, I rarely get a seat on the way home as platforms are announced a few minutes before departure, so I’m often the one crammed into the doorway with my head awkwardly positioned dangerously close to someone else’s armpit; quite a few of the trains are pretty grotty and one train has an odd cheesy smell; when the service goes down it’s total pandemonium and as though they’ve never dealt with such a situation before; and I pay a small fortune for my ticket, which also seems to go up in price at every opportunity.

Overall, I’m not terribly happy with my train company but it seems I should be because it’s not the worst… Currently, my frustrations with the service are directed at its Twitter handle. I also make sure that I claim for a delay and cancellation even though it often works out as just a few quid.

I complain and claim simply because I want my train company to know I’m not that happy with the service and I do think they could do better. But in truth, I don’t think the message gets through as nothing changes.

Customer voice

The industry’s proposal to give customers a stronger voice is to have some sort of customer representation on boards.

And while we’re keen to see what this proposal actually means and what it looks like, we certainly think that consumers represented on boards are a good idea in general.

But how do you think this could make a difference for you? How would you want your views heard? Do you think there’s more that your train company could be doing to deliver a better service?


I think it is a good idea to have customer representatives, but the people need to be regular train travellers who have some business experience so as to understand what the Board is talking about, especially in the area of finance.

The Customer Representation should include a person or persons who are blind, deaf and wheelchair users.
This current Southern dispute is about ‘Safety not Money’. Railway Operators themselves have agreed that currently they are not fulfilling their obligations to install the requisite no of cameras on trains and platforms to enable Driver Only operation to work safely but that it will save so much money that it is worth their while to start it now and work towards achieving it because as a Southern spokesperson declared ‘it will only be the disabled who will suffer’.
I am a wheelchair passenger.

It’s all very well saying how much money it will
Save who are the ones who will benefit shareholder’s
OR the public disabled or otherwise.I am inclined to think it will be the shareholders and the and the
M D and his entourage who will reep the the benefits
And that’s probably the main reason for wanting to
Bring into being before its ready

Penelope Taylor says:
2 November 2017

Greg Fletcher’s and Charles Ward’s comments make a lot of sense. Does WHICH? have anyone who fulfils those criteria? Or does any other “consumer oriented” organisation have such people? I’m thinking organisations like 38 degrees, whose raison d’etre is finding out what people need and representing those needs to the important people.

I am not a regular commuter by train, sadly. I wish I was able to use the train more as this makes so much sense and I (usually)enjoy train travel when I go on longer journeys to visit family and friends or for meetings. Train passengers need to have a clear voice in decision making, both regular commuters, and those who chose to use the train for long journeys (despite the fact that it may be more expensive.) This is for some a decision based, at least in part, on environmental considerations. Full electrification of our railways is long overdue. Ideally the rail network would be renationalised for the good of all rather than profit for the few. Just look at Spain and France to see how comprehensive, non fragmented services can work. Yes- there needs to be a voice for those who really care about the railways.

Penny Toller says:
3 November 2017

The fundamental problem is that companies are run in the interests of their shareholders not their customers. I would like to see companies having to be explicit decision by decision about how they regard what they are proposing to be in their customers’ best interests and conversely having to be open about their own financial agenda. Lewisham commuters will be familiar with this conflict over the closure of the exit on platform 4. Representatives on the board who could do this is a step in the right direction.

Not just the railway companies but ALL companies everywhere

Richard Harris says:
3 November 2017

Having a voice on the board must be a good thing. However it is most important to listen to the collective voices of the customers and treat the customer with respect. Example – it was much promoted that rail fares last winter went up by 1-2%, however not said was that many weekend fares from Southampton to Waterloo on South West Trains, now South Western Trains, went up from £25 to £29.10 that is 16.4% increase. It is this sort of hidden information and exploitation of customers that needs stopping.

I regret the privatisation of our railways and want them to be taken back into public ownership.
Railways under British Rail were more efficient without millions being taken for dividends to private companies and out of the pockets of passengers. Re-naionalisation can be achieved by not renewing franchises and making the existing ones unprofitable.

I think that rail passengers’ voices must be heard and it would seem to be a step forward. However while rail companies have to answer to shareholders and shareholders will want to see profits, rail companies will continue to put profits before rail users sadly.
I am a regular rail user, although thankfully no longer a commuter. Whilst a commuter I endured some horrific journeys between 5pm and 7pm on the Cambridge to Kings Lynn line. (It has changed franchise a number of times and usually for the worst!) Now we have some new trains on this line….rather more comfortable, but still desperately overcrowded at key times and often running late. We were promised more trains on this line and are still waiting, although a token few have been added. Privatisation means profit not service to the customer. In fact the previous rail company actually said that they were a business, not a service and that probably says it all!!

Chris Burrow says:
3 November 2017

Nationalise the railways.

Yes, then we can see and end to these frequent strikes that shut down five parts of the system and have the whole system out of action simultaneously. A return to nationwide collective bargaining with no detriment in any harmonisation of pay and conditions will work wonders too. It would be interesting to see what line on these matters a passenger representative would take and how long they could endure the negativity.

Train companies never listen to passengers views. I have complained about lack of seating on the Transpennine Express Edinburgh/Glasgow to Manchester Airport joining at Lancaster, the trains are like a cattle wagon, people everywhere, standing and sitting on the floor, a health and safety issue here I think !. The trains are not long enough, they need at least 2 extra on top of their usual 4 carriages on the class 350 electric sets. Too many seats are reserved, some not even taken up, not enough walk on passengers seats available.

Barry North says:
6 November 2017

Unless a passenger representative has experience of how the Boards of Public Companies operate, they will never be effective. I am a reluctant convert to the campaign for renationalisation as the only way that passengers will be treated like human beings, not contributions to the balance sheet, is if they can complain to their political representatives.

In theory, it sounds a good idea to involve the passengers in decisions but in practice, I fear it won’t make much difference! The First Group has a monopoly in the south west on trains to London; we used to have South West Trains Service running from Bristol to Waterloo but First managed to get that franchise awarded to themselves! The original franchise for the South West has been extended so many times that I have no idea when it will eventually come up for renewal! Luckily we do have Cross Country for going up to the midlands or down to Exeter and beyond. Although a lot of people are tending to think re-nationalisation might be the next big thing, those of us old enough will remember the dirty, unpunctual and expensive service, poor station facilities and lack of information. When Sir Peter Parker tried to introduce new fares and special offers, the resulatant surge in passenger numbers mean’t the system couldn’t cope. The whole system needs to be looked at and rationalised, and the mess the conservatives left us with should be swept away. Whether passenger voices on boards, etc, will make any difference, with firms like First in charge, I thint it will be very unlikely! And apart from that, we have to put up with Ministers cancelling schemes so that money can be diverted to another London cross rail!

Surely it has to be better to have people representing passengers. The companies will probably ignore their concerns, but they will not have the excuse that they did not understand what those concerns were.
The companies seem to think most passengers are young, fit and not struggling with babies or luggage. I wonder how many of the executives actually travel by train!

One current problem is that accountability has to go through central government – cumbersome, remote and very indirect – all tied up with the present system of Franchising.

It would probably be much more effective , instead of this “one size fits all” approach , to separate the natural monopoly , captive market operations ( typically commuter and local ) and put them under local democracy, with directly elected supremo’s , who could appoint managers / franchisees / concessions, on behalf of their electorates.

Meanwhile , intercity and longer distance service, where effective competition is feasible, to be given over to long – term, open – access competition.

These two mechanisms would give passengers more consumer power and effective accuntability.

Linda says:
21 January 2018

Regular, updated feedback could be done by having feedback cards/slot boxes for completed cards on all trains which can then be collected at the end of the day or more often if necessary. This then gives accurate, feedback by all train users at the time.