/ 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?

Janet Batterbee says:
1 November 2017

Having a customer rep on the board is meaningless without appropriate mechanisms for gathering the views of a range of customers, and subsequent monitoring of the outcomes, thus ensuring that improvements are enacted and not simply ignored. Or at the very least, that there is some explanation of outcomes. One simple example is the cost of car parking at my local station, almost doubled overnight. Of itself, the fact that I no longer go to London or to the theatre in Birmingham is not important, but the people who have to travel daily to work by train are a captive audience who, in an environment of rising inflation, can just be held to ransom.

I agree, along with a majority of the electorate, that we must renationalise our railways.
Having “customer” reps on the boards of these companies will be used to pretend that they are taking “customer” views into account, when it’s very unlikely they will pay the slightest attention.

Ben Coulter says:
1 November 2017

The only way to improve passenger voices and input on the train network is to Nationalise all the train companies, have railway workers and other professionals on the boards; complete with members of the public who actually use the trains and don’t just use them as a source of dividends. Vote Labour, participation, workplace democracy and a service run for the public and not for profit.

I have no objections to passenger representation as long as it is not the usual tick box exercise which allows companies to say “we consulted our customers/service users” and then make no changes whatsoever. Service users know what the problems are and can often suggest solutions. What’s required is a listening ear at senior management level and the ability to take risks and put required change into practice.

10 years ago I travelled in Japan on both local and bullet train services. We all know they have an excellent safety record, timing of services is immaculate, all tickets have the seat number and even the position to stand on the platform for your seat and door number is marked by 2 parallel lines where there develops a very orderly queue within the lines a few minutes before the train arrives, because it is always exactly on time! Unfortunately it will take over 100years to achieve the same standard here (or more?) but why can’t we pick up some know how from Japan by whatever means possible? I believe China has made rapid progress in this direction in recent years and it wouldn’t surprise me if some countries formerly considered 3rd world are progressing faster tha we are. Just ask them. I’m sure they will be happy to help!

I retired 2 years ago.
When I travel I no longer arrive at my destination feeling stressed
The management at London Midland are not fit for purpose
The trains at the weekend provide no service for travellers

Jean Marson-Bayat says:
2 November 2017

A major problem is the crazy pricing system – yes, as pensioners, we are spared the multitude of problems endured by commuters, so our rail travel can be enjoyable BUT the cost of unexpected journeys (eg. to visit sick family members) is horrendous, so whatever system would allow a more equitable system of pricing journeys would have my support.

Toni says:
1 November 2017

Arriva trains Wales are late or cancelled more often than on time. Also all of their trains are very old and in terrible condition. There have been numerous occasions when the train has actually arrived on time but then broken down before leaving the platform or enroute. Nothing will change as long as franchises are handed to foreign companies, who can make a profit from passengers who have no choice but to use the trains running on those routes. The answer is renationalise them asap.

Jo Sparkes says:
1 November 2017

I used to travel on the trains when they had separate compartments and corridors andl travelled to school on them
It was a time l loved and wish trains were like this now !!!

A.R. Osman says:
1 November 2017

It’s not the customers representation which will make any difference as far as the southern rail is concerned. The sufferings by the fair paying commuters at the hands of this franchise is now known even outside Britain(SHAME) and the dispute between arms twisting unions and the company is now nearly 2 year old. So how is it going to be solved?

John says:
1 November 2017

When there is a profit to be made and no competition the profits will come first and customers second .There should be a cap on profits and stiffer penalties for bad service with a performance and customer care biased regulator who would be prepared to take the action needed to make improvements

I remember British Rail from when I was a child (almost all of my dad’s family were BR employees.) It was shambolic and badly organised, but compared to what I see today it was amazing. I had to use both Southern and Southwestern Trains in the past few months – my deepest sympathy to those who have to use them regularly or long-term.

Alan Johnson says:
1 November 2017

South West Trains ceased to be in August 2017. The operator is now South Western Railway, a collaboration between First Group and MTR ( Hong Kong).

Name change to fool people things have changed ? It works some times as well

Linda says:
1 November 2017

Customer representation on the board would help alert train companies to the issues. There would need to be a duty on the customer representation director to be proactive – to monitor customer priorities and complaints; argue for customers’ priorities to influence business development / financial / marketing decisions; undertake research into specific problems raised by specific groups – eg blind travellers, train users living in Macclesfield; and to send out “mystery shopper” type rail users with full reporting back to the board.

But would those in power listen ?

Ceri says:
1 November 2017

Customer representation at board level would be a step in the right direction.
As some have said above, however, re-nationalising the trains would be real progress – enabling all elements of the service – from caterers to engineering – to pull together instead of in different directions.

I used to be on First Great Western’s Customer Panel but all that happened was they sent me complaints from passengers that they expected me to answer – and pretended that they had consulted us on matters that were clearly a fait accomplis. A total waste of my time and very frustrating. This announcement is totally meaningless and they know it.

Paul Newman says:
1 November 2017

If the railways return to public ownership it will be phased by expiry of franchises with possibility of forming a co-operative enterprise including perhaps a Government stake but with a major stake by customers and employees with all profits either or both retained for reinvestment capital or paid in shareholder dividend. Shareholders would have to be residents within the geographocal routes areas

I feel customers need to be represented or we have no voice. Customers then need feedback from those discussions by an impartial source. I am on the Northern rail network which can be very poor service wise. Somethings cannot be helped such as the damage caused by storm Brian recently but others can be improved upon such as over flowing bins, lack of seating at peak times etc.

The central issue is that we have by far the most expensive fares in Europe – privatisation = customer choice?

So the next time someone says (or you read) “Britain has the highest rail fares in Europe”, you’ll know this is only 15% of the story. The other 85% is that we have similar or even cheaper fares, too. The big picture is that Britain has the most commercially aggressive fares in Europe, with the highest fares designed to get maximum revenue from business travel, and some of the lowest fares designed to get more revenue by filling more seats.


From Wiki

Country Subsidy in billions of Euros Year
Germany 17.0 2014
France 13.2 2013
Italy 7.6 2012
Switzerland 5.8 2012
Spain 5.1 2015
United Kingdom 4.4 2016

OK, a mix of dates but if still representative, we spend less in subsidy than other major EU countries, which presumably will impact on our fares.

Do we want the UK taxpayer to pay for part of a business traveller’s, holidaymaker’s or commuter’s train fare? Personally, I don’t.

trisha justin says:
2 November 2017

Caring about what the customer thinks- for GWR that will be a novel experience

Our Island Line Service on the Isle of Wight has been promised ‘new’ trains for some time bu there is no sign of them. We now have a new franchise holder South West Trains who have promised to put more money into the system and improve the train service. Sometimes it is like travelling on a roller coaster. There is no where to put luggage and locals get elbowed out during the summer season. It might be helpful to have someone on the Board who can at least explain what is proposed to the train users.