/ Travel & Leisure

Picture your train travel heaven…


Our latest research reveals that rail passengers experience delayed, dirty and overcrowded trains. With trust in rail also slipping, we want to know what your idea of a better rail service would be.

Earlier this year we called out for people to share with us their stories of train hell – we wanted to know what makes your experiences of rail journeys so unpleasant.

Thousands responded to our call for information and after sifting through these accounts, it certainly hasn’t painted a pretty picture of rail travel.

Rail services

Many train company were mentioned in these stories. We had reports of dirty and old trains, passengers packed in like sardines every time they travelled and many expressed irritation at delays and cancellations.

One supporter, Jerry, told us his train travel frustrations

‘Too many to mention – cancelled trains – trains curtailed – no trains to route that I usually use and every day in the morning mass overcrowding with fights on some days to squeeze further in – animals are treated better.’

Perhaps unsurprisingly there has been a significant shift in consumer trust across the rail industry – falling 11% in a year, from 37% in March 2016 to 26% in March 2017.

In March we ran a nationally representative survey asking people what their experience of train travel had been in the past six months. Many people reported problems with getting a seat due to overcrowding on at least one occasion and one in seven said this happened regularly.

We also had reports of delays with many passengers experiencing delays of up to 15 minutes and one in ten saying that they faced frequent delays.

It’s clear that the rail sector is failing its passengers too often.

For Fabiano there’s an injustice when you consider the cost of the service:

‘It’s unacceptable, I’m not getting the train for free and I’m not asking any favour! I’m paying an expensive ticket to get a horrible service.’

Taking action

But it’s hardly breaking news that people aren’t overly satisfied with the standard of rail services in the UK. As many of you will know we’ve been campaigning on problems with the rail sector for some time now, and while we’ve seen some progress with wins like the extension of the Consumer Rights Act to cover rail travel, there’s still work to be done.

That’s why we want the next government to take action and ensure passengers get a much better standard of service. It’s not acceptable that passengers should have to endure such poor experiences on our railways.

We believe change will be possible by introducing an independent, statutory ombudsman, and a stronger regulator that’s prepared to stand up for passengers.

Travelling by train shouldn’t be a hellish experience. So how would you make train travel more pleasurable? What would your train travel heaven look like? Do you want the government to take action and improve rail standards?


Nationalise our railways we will not get good service because German and French companies own most of our train services so they can put up the prices when ever they want we need our to own British Rail again pull out of the EU and use some of the 318 million that we pay the EU each day while we are still members to fund train services

MD says:
20 May 2017

Renationalised – so that the taxpayer receives the revenue, rather than the current neoliberal Kafkaesque situation wherein the taxpayer picks up the tab for maintenance, whilst private shareholders walk off with the profits (of which there would be none without said taxpayer subsidies…).

Two years of traffic disruption we’ve had in my town whilst the two rail companies involved argue about who is to pay for the repairs to a road bridge. If it were all state-owned, this would have been fixed immediately.

What a pup the populace of this country continues to be sold.

Meanwhile, Statoil – the Norwegian state-owned oil company (oh the irony) – builds a massive offshore wind farm and gets its hands on our cash. Another example of us having to go cap-in-hand to foreigners to ensure our energy future now everything’s been handed over to the private sector.

As I say – decades of being sold a pup, backed up by neoliberal lies, dogma and propaganda.

I think they should be re-nationalised. This is the only way to ensure a fully integrated service with equality of service throughout the network. It should also mean an end to the multitude of different fares and deals and a return to a simpler, fairer and more transparent fare structure.

Renationalisation is unlikely to be “the answer”. In many ways, privatisation has been quite succesfull up until the past few years, after which it seems government have ” messed up”. I’m old enough to remember the BR era, and it was far from wonderful – something that younger people won’t have experienced.

Unfortunately, the way the franchising system is structured leaves a lot to be desired, largely negating the potential benefits that privatisation was originally supposed to bring.

Lionel Burman says:
25 June 2017

Being disabled I would like to be able to book assistance when buying my ticket, and have seamless assistance when changing trains and at termini. At termini I would like to see a prominent manned booth where you can book assistance.

I agree with you Lionel, but all the termini that I can think of and many more major stations do have a customer service desk where assistance can be arranged. Most major stations have a transport facility for disabled passengers and their luggage to take them to and from their trains and to the car park or taxi stance. What I am not sure about is whether it is possible to make a future booking for assistance, or for assistance at a different station [for example, for the return leg of a journey]. I recall that the Network Rail website has comprehensive details in respect of the major termini and through stations that they operate. For others it will be the train operating company that runs the particular station; that is not necessarily the same company that runs your train but the details of which company runs every station will be on the Network Rail website.

Carol says:
25 June 2017

Trains of all kinds should have air conditioning in warm weather: sun shining directly into crowded carriages without windows to open beyond a mere slit creates very hot and dangerous conditions. London Underground trains need air conditioning even though out of direct sunlight. Rush hour trains of any kind in London are nightmarish, so crowded they are like something out of Dante’s imagination. Would double-decker carriages be a possible solution for commuter trains above ground? More forms of transport are needed, but also it would help if more jobs were located outside central London.

You will be pleased to know, Carol, that all new passenger trains will have air conditioning. Many existing trains have it, especially on main lines, but there is still some old stock around that is uncomfortable in very hot weather. In some trains that have air conditioning it is kept switched off and in some cases it doesn’t work. It imposes a heavy power load on a train’s diesel engines or electric motors and some trains built in the 1980’s do not have enough power to support it. Air conditioning is progressively coming in on London Underground and London Overground trains starting with those that are surface or sub-surface lines. The new deep tube trains will have air-conditioning but it has always been difficult in the deep tube lines to dump the heat extracted from the train cars without making the tunnels and stations too hot. Additional ventilation in the stations is the answer but that is an expensive and time-consuming solution.

Train heaven?? Not that difficult really.
1) Rational and understandable fares. NOT the whole plethora of fares we have to mine through now.
2) On time trains. How is that so difficult, other countries do it?
3) Adequate capacity. The companies know the popular routes and times, why can’t they adjust their services to accommodate these variations instead of expecting to us to compromise and suffer?
4) A seat!!!

My needs are simple. Trains that are kept clean inc toilets. Rolling stock that is *not* 40 years old. Reasonable punctuality (I am fully aware that problems occur so am prepared to put up with an *occasional* problem). No turning part of the service into an express part way along it’s route e.g. boarded a train at M’cr Piccadilly. The changeover of crew at Oxford Rd was almost 15 mins late (their train ran late!) and when the service got to Wigan Wallgate it was turned into an express (no stopping) for the rest of the journey to Southport. It was good for me but not the passengers who needed to get to the stations in between. This is common practice in this area & of course paints the punctuality figures into a (false) favourable light – to hell with the passengers/customers! Better customer service: I recently claimed for part of my journey where the train did not run ie asking for a partial refund & was told that “this compensation payment in no way set a precedent”. They will be getting a reply from me! I got just what I asked for a partial refund & they have the cheek to call it compensation. BTW I have not seen any overcrowding in the North West (but did when I lived down South).

Railway carriages are designed and built for a forty-year life, Harry, so there will always be some around that are getting on a bit. There are usually major overhauls and refurbishments at 8-10 year intervals which bring them up to the latest specifications. Our operator [Greater Anglia] has just done this with all its inter-city trains even though they will be replaced with brand new stock over the next three years. I find the interior condition of the trains more to do with passenger behaviour than operator deficiency.

Would I be allowed to mention really good rail services?
1. The Virgin service from Euston to North Wales is fast, punctual and if booked in advance, cheap. True, the trains are now some years old and the noise of 8000 diesel horse power beneath is increasing, but they go 100 miles from Milton Keynes to Crewe in an hour and to Llandudno Junction in 2h 19mins. Last week we were stuck in a queue because some points had failed at Mostyn or Holywell Junction, but the train made up most of the delay and arrived at Milton Keynes only a few minutes down. Roof racks for luggage; there is also room between the seats to put your heavier bags, if you book in advance for a table in Coach D. I avoid the airline type seats – the view is restricted. Enormous disabled loos (but sometimes they have flushing fits, which is dreadful, and if you are not au fait with the flashing lights you may expose yourself to passers-by in the corridor or lock yourself in) and wheelchair ramps at stations. Commendable.
2. There are some independent local railways in Wales that connect with BR – such as the Vale of Rheidol, the Talyllyn – and some that don’t – the Snowdon, the Welshpool & Llanfair, the Bala Lake, the Llangollen, the Brecon Mountain. Possibly the prize of the bunch may be the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland – nearly 40 miles, connects with two BR lines, wheelchair access, modest meals and good beer on the train, adequate loos (the train is not big enough to hold a full size standard gauge one so technically it is a staff loo – ‘but of course you may, madam….’, decent third class carriages and quite opulent first class (only guide dogs in First Class). This line was reviewed in Which? many years ago – might be worth revisiting.
None of these Welsh railways exceeds 25mph, because of an Act of 1896, but you have gone to see the views which are often wonderful, especially in the snow. No strap-hanging, no gropers, and the railway union RMT is a model of good behaviour.

Linda says:
13 February 2018

Can’t speak for other services but Southern need to get to grips on what the travelling public would like to see. Preferably, more trains on the timetable. I travel regulary on the already crowded 08.18 from Seaford to London Victoria but when this service gets to Lewes, there is a 10-12mins delay before departing. Why?