/ Travel & Leisure

Do train companies act on your feedback?

Get Trains On Track logo

Since the launch of our Get Trains On Track campaign you’ve been sharing your train tales with us. We’ve now delivered these to the train companies and asked them to outline how they’ll act on your feedback.

Nearly 1,000 comments have been sorted and packed up into dossiers for each of the train companies. They cover everything from punctuality to cleanliness, and they’re now in the hands of the train operators.

Feedback for train companies

Alex was pleased with East Coast Trains’ response:

‘My partner and I went to Scotland. Both trains were cold. I emailed them and within five days they had sent a letter of apology and two £15 vouchers as way of compensation.’

Abbie, a South West Trains passenger, is unhappy with the way compensation is awarded when things go wrong:

‘Not only were they very late arriving but they were so overcrowded one person fainted and had to be helped off at the next stop. When I asked about compensation I was told I had to wait two months to see if it was classified as a void day when a percentage of trains were over 40 minutes late. Their customer services couldn’t tell me what the percentage was.’

Charles, a First Capital Connect passenger, thinks that ‘the cost of travelling simply doesn’t match punctuality or the general on-board experience.’

Delays and packed trains

Oliver, a Greater Anglia passenger, told us:

Trains are delayed on a daily basis; every train pretty much. There is regular bus replacement. There are regular cancellations in which the most ridiculous excuses are given eg too windy, too many leaves on the tracks, too much rain. The entire system/model is a shoddy shower of sugar.’

Marianne is fed up with crowded trains:

‘My biggest problem – is that in the heart of rush hour, Southern still put on trains with only four carriages. Which means maybe half the people on the platform might be able to force themselves on, and the rest of us are left waiting even longer for the next late train. Why, when the lines are so busy, would you put a four car train on the line where a 10 car train is needed?’

We want train companies to outline how they will act on your feedback to improve passenger satisfaction. In particular, we want to hear how they’ll pro-actively encourage, listen to and respond to the feedback they’re given on a daily basis. What do you hope they’ll say?

Robin J Allison says:
18 August 2014

Our Rail system once the benchmark for the rest of the world has been allowed to decay and decompose through lack of investment and maintenance. Now we must pay the price for this with overpriced engineering upgrades and maintenance which in turn create travel problems in the form of delays, overcrowding and overpriced tickets.
Only the UK was capable of ruining the most comprehensive passenger and cargo rail transport system with its inappropriate cuts and closures of the 1960’s. A clear case of how to mismanage a transport infrastructure that worked.
Now we as TAX payers and passengers alike are forced to pay for a very expensive catch-up while Government of the day allowed the whole system to fail with the appointment of inappropriate management and financial shortfalls.

Wayne Lawrence says:
18 August 2014

Train companies do not act on feedback. The compensation scheme means nothing as the delay statistics are calculated across the whole service and not the service commuters pay for. Train companies operate a two tier ticket system for which commuters pay a hefty premium yet they do not operate a two tier stats system which they should. i.e. calculate peak service availability and refund commuters on this.

Refunds aren’t fair either since the only thing this leads to over the period of the next year is increased fares to cover these costs. Train companies should be forced to reduce the fares in accordance with service availability each year. Effectively every delay commuters get refunded for in fare decrease the following year. (that is a fare policy)

Jonathan Rickels says:
18 August 2014

Saturday July 26th my wife & I returned from Brighton (Southern) via Victoria & Kings X to Arlesey.

The Brighton to Victoria train was over 30 mins late leaving and made very slow progress due to a broken down train aheda up the line, arriving at Victoria 1hr 30 mins late.

Southern made no attempt to limit the numbers of passengers who tried to board an already crowded train at the 3 intermmediate stops.

Nor did they attempt to add more carriages to a train they knew, (numbers of ticket sales?, traffic analysis, etc.) would likely be very crowded!!

On that day Victoria was a seething mass of people all seemingly moving in different directions; no particular flow to follow. Just as it was on the outward journey on Thursday July 24th.

By contrast Kings Cross was much more civilised.

This is a 50 mile journey that still takes 50 minutes on the fastetst trains, just as it did 60 years ago!!

By contrast the journey from Kings X to Arlesey, approximately 40 miles takes 33 minutes on the regular trains; an improvement over the years of some 7 minutes.

On our journey down to Kings X on thursday july 24th we were similarly held up, this time by a track worker who had fallen & broken his leg; needing unrestricted access & track closure for the ambulance & paramedics. That was cleared quickly & promptly.

That train was also crowded, & only eight carriages. Contrast this with standard practice on the Netherlands railway, the Spoorweg; where 12 double deck carriage trains with specific space provided for disabled, bicycles, prams, push chairs & large luggage are common on all services but the stopping trains, which are usually not less than eight carriages. And though they too have their share of obstructions, actual breakdowns are rare.

The Southern Railway experimented with double-decker trains in the 1930’s and the coaches stayed in use for quite a long time on one route but the scheme was not extended across the network. The trains did provide additional – but not twice as much – capacity but at the expense of rather cramped seating conditions and awkward internal arragements. This caused boarding and alighting difficulties and protracted dwell-times at stations. Many continental trains include double-deck coaches in suburban trains; the ‘loading gauge’ [the space between tracks, through bridges and tunnels, and alongside platforms] is much more generous on continental railways so the carriages can be higher and wider than on UK railways. In North America and elsewhere I believe there are many long-distance trains with upper levels, sometimes used as observation cars or dining saloons. The favoured solution to capacity problems in the UK has been longer trains and higher frequency. Ultimately, because of unwise line closures in the 1960’s, we are also having to build entirely new limited-stop lines to provide relief to the busiest main lines.

bruce cooper says:
18 August 2014

When are Southeastern going to provide some sort of access for disabled passengers travelling towards London from Herne Bay? My partner uses a walking aid and cannot manage the stairs without assistance. When we have to travel towards London, I have to leave my partner or the walking aid while I take one or the other across. Luckily, we haven`t missed a train yet! No doubt that will come! Disabled people have to travel as well Southeastern!

Brian Rosen says:
22 August 2014

Although not disabled myself, I have become appalled on behalf of everyone who uses Victoria mainline terminus (a major hub for Southeastern Trains which you mentioned) and the adjacent London Underground station, at the lack of proper access for disabled people, people with heavy luggage (this is an international station serving Gatwick Airport), people with small children, people with pushchairs, and people temporarily affected by injuries, etc etc. It is truly pitiful seeing these people struggling to get through the station complex with all its different stairways. There has been no effort to improve facilities for decades. In response to a letter I recently wrote to Network Rail about this, I understand the earliest we are likely to see improvements for disabled access is 2018. Given the sheer numbers of passengers who use this station, this is totally unacceptable. Particularly symptomatic of the poor planning and decision-taking by those in charge, is that a whole new fixed stairway was recently constructed between the mainline station and the underground, whereas a set of escalators would (to me at least) have been an overriding obvious priority for using the same available space. Who makes these kinds of decisions, and why?

A massive improvement project is currently underway at Victoria Underground station and I assume that step-free access from street level to the platforms [and probably onto the trains] will be a priority feature. Getting onto the Circle and District line platforms there is especially difficult right now; at least there are escalators down to the Victoria line. As you say, the main Underground concourse should have a step-free connection provided to the national rail station concourse as a matter of urgency. Hundreds of thousands of struggling passengers also use this station en route to or from the Victoria coach station.

Transport for London [TfL] issue a tremendously comprehensive and highly detailed map and station index [even showing the height of the step into the train and the gap between the platform edge and the door threshold] for stations which provide accessibility [it’s called the “Step free Tube Guide” and is available on-line and as a printed leaflet] to help with journet planning. Unfortunately a large number of very important stations are still awaiting their accessibility upgrades

I have travelled by train during most of the decades of my seventy plus years; the exception being the 1980s; this was largely because my experience of the railways was so very, very, poor in the 1970s. Todays trains are VASTLY better than then.
I do not travel during the rush hours these days, the times when both tracks and carriages are at their most overloaded; this may be why my experiences of present day trains are good, & others not. In particular, I greatly appreciate the Thameslink service both before and since First Capital Connect won the franchise. It rates poorly in Which? reports compared with simple in-and-out of London lines such as the one to Southend, but is this a fair comparison? The ‘Thameslink’ line is vulnerable to hold-ups not_of_their_making on both sides of London as well as passing through it.
Also, how many services run 24hours a day?

Shirley vanderBijl says:
18 August 2014

Often travel by Arriva train linking North Wales toe South, then on to Great North western, bOth companies have honoured their promises when trains have been delayed by weather. But the situation at Bristol Temple Meads with delayed trains was hopeless, crowds of people, no shelter,wet stormy night and to my knowledge over 100 people expecting assistance! Three hours being shuffled from platform to platform, without the help of an off duty trainee we would never have found our train. This situation needs to be resolved.

Margaret Cooney says:
18 August 2014

The station I use is Nunhead in SE London. Two companies run services through there; First Capital Connect and Southeastern. The services they operate and their reductions during the evening and at weekends are bewildering to the uninitiated. Baffling too as this is a busy line.

We are confused about who actually runs services or stations along the route. I know SE run our station and I know they are responsible for the other service that comes through there from Dartford to Victoria.

On Twitter I’ve complained about late running, cancellations, filthy overcrowded trains, platform safety and rude staff (usually FCC) to FCC as it’s their trains from Sevenoaks that are the problem.

They always abrogate responsibility and blame SE Trains. SE usually respond but its still not always clear who the responsibility lies with. Their staff are generally more polite though.

Here’s an example. At weekends it is sometimes necessary catch a connecting train home from Elephant and Castle, not a pleasant station. Usually trains that go via Peckham Rye and Nunhead leave from platform 4 which is up 4 steep flights of stairs up and this after you’ve navigated the appalling tube transfer and the Soviet style shopping centre with limited signage. On more than one occasion a platform change has been announced with only 2 minutes to spare before the service arrives. Everyone has to dash down stairs run across the horrible lobby and go up another four flights of stairs. This includes elderly people, those with heavy luggage and people with babies in prams and it is quite a scramble because it is busy. The train doesn’t wait either. It has happened on at least five occasions and I have tried to complain. I’ve been ignored and I have no idea who I should direct this towards as neither FCC or SE will take responsibility.

Also why do they allow full size bikes on what are incredibly busy services at all times? I saw a man get on at E&C with a full bike last week at 6pm. No response to that.

FCC are dreadful. Rude, unhelpful and ignorant. I saw one of their staff at Blackfriars being abusive to an elderly, confused lady who was politely asking for help on a quiet Sunday afternoon. No queues and a nearly empty station. I was appalled, but it really didn’t surprise me. It sums them up as a company.

I want to know who is responsible for which stations and services – specifically all between St Pancras and Nunhead and how to make them act on what are legitimate concerns.

I am glad there has been a change of operator on this route. We use it quite a lot between Cambridge and London King’s Cross. Depite enormous expenditure by Network Rail on lengthening platforms to take 12-coach trains, FCC have persistently run 4-coach trains off-peak. There is no off-peak on this line. The high-frequency non-stop service and the attraction of Cambridge as a tourist, business and academic destination mean there is no slack and every train in both directions throughout the day is full and standing. They are also overloaded with travel bags and bicycles in the doorways. Doubling to eight coaches would make a big difference.

Jennifer Beattie says:
18 August 2014

I have problems using my Strathclyde Concessionary Travel Card on train journeys now that local stations are unmanned; the ticket machines don’t have a link for ‘concession’ fares other than Disabled Railcard holders – on-board ticket inspectors insist on my paying the full fare. I found buying a Railcard was a waste of money when I could travel on buses all round mainland Scotland for free. What has happened, of course, is the bus services are being reduced to an unacceptable level. Another issue is access to trains for wheelchair users; I dislike having to pre-book a ticket to make sure I can have ramp access.

1. Many of us do not have a local rail link without travelling some distance to it. So why waste billions on HS2 when we have yet to get the basics right? If oil becomes scarce in the near future – will our country be able to continue functioning with strategic mass transport for people & goods?
2. If I travel by car, coach or airplane, a personal seat and seat belt are regarded as essential for my safety. Why do the same safety considerations not apply to other forms of “public transport” such as service busses and trains? Why are people permitted to stand and why are they not supplied with safety belts on trains and busses? I don’t understand the reasoning.
3. If I pay a train company a lot of money for a journey, why am I not guaranteed a seat? If I am expected to stand, and in crowded conditions, should I not get a choice and a very much cheaper “cattle class” ticket?? Or should the standee be carried for free?
4. Why does the rail regulator turn a blind eye toward these issues?

Dave Harsh says:
19 August 2014


For 1, The building of HS2 will actually help them to get the basics right. There is currently record investment in the rail industry and HS2 is just another part of the grand plan to free up capacity on our commuter lines for more train
For 2, bus and train drivers are paid professionals, not everyday numpties like you or I
For 3, you are not guaranteed a seat because the train companies cannot precisely predict demand and if you were to get a train when a football match is on, would you expect a seat then?
For 4, The rail regulator has absolutely no power, like ofcom, ofgem, which? etc. Regulators/associations are just something to placate the consumer, they don’t fight for us.

In summary, no-one will improve this situation unless we vote in a government that isn’t a genuine suck -up to all their corporate buddies.

We, as luddites believe that the governemnt will weigh up all the options and select the right one for good of the country, wrong.

Politicians will do whatever suits themselves best. This is our political system, until that changes, it’s probably best to move to Germany

Dan Collins (Twitter - @RealDC80 ) says:
19 August 2014

Abellio Greater Anglia and Network Rail are useless, daily delays thanks to train faults, and various daily faults with Network Rail’s infrastructure.

They never clean their trains, they’re always filthy, they never maintain them, always breaking down one way or another, yet we pay more per mile to use their services than anywhere else in the country, it’s a rip off and we’re looking at a fare increase, it’s an absolute joke.

Anyone who wants to join my AGA Complaints group on Facebook? Join it at http://www.facebook.com/groups/agacomplaints – Follow me on Twitter – @RealDC80 and Ian @Delayed_Again

Ronnie Rees says:
19 August 2014

It is hardly worth buying a ticket in order to travel on SouthWest Trains since an onboard ticket check is a rarity – and never more than the one on any long distance journey – with most stations open. In the last twio weeks I have twice travelled from Branksome (Poole) to London and had my ticket checked once out of the four outward and return journeys.

Similarly a recent journey from Branksome to Brighton via Southampton where Southern Railway takes over. Continuous repetitive automatic announcements – 4 on approach to every statiom then four more when leaving – led to my writing to Southern and – heavens above – back came an e-mail from someone in Customer Relations who had actually read and understood my complaints and who said, yes, that did seem very excessive and that she would get something done about it! At last – a Customer Relations Office that listens to a customer!

Every week my local train company (c2c) closes down most of the network for “engineering work”; in my opinion either unnecessary or completely bogus. For a whole year running up to the Olympics we had no trains at all on my line due to “engineering work to extend platforms to accomodate 12-car trains”, but neither during the games or since have we seen one single 12-car train! The whole thing was a scam to put money into the pockets of contractors! What did c2c get in return I wonder? And furthermore: whenever there is a major public event in London (Marathon, Notting Hill Carnival, etc) they transfer rolling stock from the Tilbury branch (my line) to the Basildon branch! Anyone relying on the train to get to work on Sunday, as I and thousands of others do, has to find alternative transport because they cancel half the trains!

Brian Rosen says:
22 August 2014

Does anyone seriously believe that shutting down huge swathes of the national rail network and the London Underground every weekend for I don’t how many years on end now, for alleged ‘essential engineering works’, is really as ‘essential’ as the transport authorities want us to believe? I’ve long thought while some engineering work is truly necessary, the sheer scale and frequency of the shut-downs has become a major scandal that passes unnoticed by the media etc. I don’t recall ever seeing the same level of weekend shut-downs in our neighbouring European countries. It’s got so bad that I actually avoid using the national network at weekends if I can, though for many people, it’s the only part of the week they can use for short breaks, visiting friends and relatives, etc. I’ve often wondered if ‘essential engineering works’ are a cover for some kind of scam or cover that somehow helps to Train Operating Companies make more profit. And just think, if rail workers’ strikes were to shut down the same amount of the national rail system every weekend, we’d never hear the end of it from the media and the rail system managers. It’s time the whole engineering works thing was investigated by an independent body.

I have it on good authority that the train companies actually COACHES their staff what lies to tell the travelling public! They sit them down in classrooms, and write the lies on a whiteboard, and point to the lies, word by word, and get the staff to recite the lies, such as, “In France the entire rail network shuts down for months at a time for maintenance”.

[This comment has been edited to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Brian Rosen says:
22 August 2014

I am particularly interested in how decisions to improve routes and services are taken (or not, as the case may be), especially in my own area of South / Southeast London.

1. The much-praised new Overground crosses and overlaps with one of the main Kent lines (currently operated by Southeast Trains) into London Victoria at just three places: Brixton, Wandsworth Road and Clapham High Street. It is clear that if an interchange at one or more of these three points was ever on the agenda, it was ruled out – a massive lost opportunity. At Brixton the respective track levels are different and at an angle to each other, but not an insuperable problem given willing investment – but this is Brixton of course. Had it been Docklands or the new development at Battersea Power Station, I’m sure an interchange would have been a top priority. At the other two stations, the levels of the two lines are the same and the tracks parallel, but the respective trains pass like ships in the night with no platforms on the Kent side. Incidentally, the Overground was originally planned to serve our area at Tulse Hill, but without any kind of consultation, TfL suddenly switched their routing decision to the present one at the last minute.

2. Meanwhile, just a little further towards Victoria along the same line is the now out-of-use rusting branch into London Waterloo used by Eurostar trains before HS1 was completed. It could so obviously be used by trains on the Kent lines, which (amongst other things) would give our part of London a direct connection to Waterloo (which currently takes us several train changes or slow bus journeys).

3. A third case in point is service infrequency and train length. Southeast Trains’ Kent line (Orpington-Victoria) that serves our nearest stations, runs just 4 trains an hour during the day, but even that drops to just 2 4-coach trains an hour in the evenings. Compare this with almost any other inner suburban area of London, especially those served by Underground and Overground, and this level of service just seems utterly ridiculous and unreasonable, and it hasn’t changed for years). The evening trains are overcrowded of course (and, as it happens, full of fast-food munchers and mobile phone shouters, making the experience of using them, really unpleasant).

I had a monthly season ticket with a week left to run that I tried to get a refund on. After waiting 10 minutes while the clerk tried to find out how to complete the refund she then came back and told me there was no refund due!! Rather than trying to deal with her I now have a form to go to their head office.

This experience is not the first I have had. Northern Rail put in a new ticketing system, supposedly to improve the customer experience. That has not been my experience. My other main gripe is that the rail companies give “void” days if there punctuality falls below a certain level. These days can be added to your next season ticket renewal. However they are not applied automatically. you have to request them. Another way for the rail companies to screw their customers.

Is an entertaining and definitely should be read first and then you can go to the website.


I hope Which? will forward a copy of each of the individual company dossiers to passengerfocus as it may be very helpful to them. The data on satisfaction etc is here and you can break down to the data to the 42 questions asked.; and of course to the operator level.

There are detailed instructions on how and to whom to complain look useful and if you are not satisfied you can take the complaint to them.

Gillian M says:
28 August 2014

I have been really impressed with the publicly owned company that took over the East Coast mainline when the previous private operator bailed out in 2009. Since then it has started to make a profit … for us, the taxpayers. Brilliant you would have thought. But despite this I understand that it will be sold back to another private operator next year… cue profits distributed to shareholders and higher prices for us travellers … Public control is working here so for goodness’ sake let’s leave it be.

Brian Rosen says:
28 August 2014

The ‘public-bad, private-good’ ideology is now so embedded in all our main political parties’ minds that it’s very difficult to see how it will ever be dislodged. And together with the pro-privatisation lobby, and privatisation-favouring media, they seem to have won the propaganda battle too. But the public backlash against NHS privatisation shows that the idea of public ownership is not yet dead in the minds of much of the British public. The ECML service is such a striking and important demonstration of how public ownership can work well, that I think its impending privatisation is a worthy case for a full scale petition to Parliament. (I live on a network in the London region that was once well run when it was public (twice) and has been privatised, then re-privatised. With ever-increasing numbers of passengers in London, Southeastern has done absolutely nothing in our area to improve our service frequency, train length, or new routes and interchanges. It seems to be run entirely for profit without investment.)

TFL charged me £40 as getting £80 where they initially asked to pay £40.
They fined my children for using each other’s cards for £40 and if I don’t pay within a week then I’ll have to pay £80. They also gave me 1 week to appeal.

I submitted appeal and asked for reassurance that this will not considerd time lapse and if I don’t get the appeal in my favour I would have to pay the original penalty of £40.

I received reply that my case will be on hold till the assessment of appeal. After a weekI was informed my appeal is refused and I need to pay £80 or face consequences including prosecution. This all rubbish for a child’s mistake for which we both asked pardon in writing.

when I wrote reply with all correspondence attached I got a response of some ill mannered representative
reminding me of consequences again. I have paid the money at the moment but I really don’t won’t to give an additional £40.
Can anyone direct me how to claim refund for my money?

[This comment has been tweaked to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Hi A, I’m sorry to read about your experience with TFL.

You mentioned that you’ve already made a claim with them – have you kept copies of all correspondence with TFL as it’s a good to keep a record?

If you’re unhappy with the way your complaint has been handled, you can take it to the Parliamentary Ombudsman (for Passenger Focus), or the London TravelWatch Chief Executive. And, if you’re still unhappy with London TravelWatch you can refer your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Interesting case. I hope A you keep readers informed how it goes.

Incidentally how old are your children ? What applies to adults might needed to be tempered where children are involved.