/ Travel & Leisure

Picture your train travel heaven…

Train

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?

Comments
Guest
Ronald Ankers says:
16 May 2017

Cheaper fares will lead to more passengers and greater investment.

Guest
Lord Denzil Paul Jonah. says:
17 May 2017

MORE PASSENGERS MORE PROFIT AND AN EVEN CRAPPIER SERVICE BY THESE GREEDY PROFIT MAKING DONT GIVE A S-IT ABOUT THERE CISTOMERS AND LOWER STAFF, AND DONT SAT CHEAP THE GREEDY B-ST-RDS WHO RUN OUR CRAPPY RAILWAYS DONT KNOW THE WORD CHEAP. DPJ777.

Guest
Baldyjock says:
29 May 2017

On;y one solution; re-nationalise.

Guest

The only part of the existing railway system that isn’t nationalised is owning and running the trains – all the rest [far too much] is dictated by the government or by Network Rail which is a nationalised organisation. Even the interior design of the latest carriages has been prescribed by the government [and they are not comfortable]. The times of the first and last trains and the overall frequency and capacity requirements are laid down in the franchises. The fares structure and prices for all regulated fares [including commuter fares] are under the government’s control and are, structurally, virtually the same as existed under British Rail. That part that is not entirely played by government has generated double the number of passengers and a vast increase in the number of services. Nationalise it by all means but I guarantee there will still be lots to complain about. The operating margin for all the franchises in 2015 was just 2.4% – that’s £233m on commercial income of £9.6 billion. With inflation currently at 2.3%, reducing fares to absorb the surplus would provide a one-year standstill at best – and that’s assuming all the operations are conducted with no less efficiency than under the present regime. There are currently over 6,000 new rail vehicles on order for delivery by 2020 at a cost exceeding £10 billion; is that where government money [our taxes] should be spent in present circumstances?

If the government is returned at the General Election and we leave the EU as planned it would not surprise me if franchises were lengthened responsibly to give operators more incentive to develop better services and take even more commercial risk.

Guest
Martine Somerville says:
16 May 2017

We need reasonably priced reliable public transport fully integrated across different modes/providers (eg. interchangeable ticketing), with an end to public funds subsidising shareholders’ dividends.

Guest
Mike smith says:
16 May 2017

Nationalise our railways, provide smoking compartments and reintroduce affordable transport for vehicles on long distant routes-especially motorcycles

Guest
Steven Stewart says:
16 May 2017

I would prefer an earlier train ,say 5.00 A.m. to get me to work half an hour earlier, so I can prepare for my working day, as well as sit down for a relaxed cuppa before work starts instead of having to rush to leave the depot thus forcing me to sometimes forget to take vital equipment to my worksite.
A further waste of time!
An alternative platform for Cannon Street trains to arrive at London Bridge by. There are 15 platforms, c’mon guys, sort this out!

Guest
Catherine says:
16 May 2017

Nationalise our railways again so the profits can be reinvested rather than go into the pockets of fat cat shareholders.

Guest

Renationalise the Railways

Guest
A Davidson says:
16 May 2017

C2C London commuter. Four car trains stuffed full followed minutes later by an eight carriage train that is fewer stops so has to be empty? No; when there were frequent four carriage trains you could afford to let one go past because there were six an hour at peak time. Now you have to rush in case the partial stopping train might go past your stop. Or not. Six carriages???Remember those days? Four carriages is not enough for the peak unless more frequent than four an hour.
C2C is a single closed line and for a couple of years was brilliant. They took off carriages and gave them to other lines and then refused to react to the crowding. It is only in the last few months the situation has improved but the evening trickery with eight or not cars is not what we pay for. West Ham platform 8 signage is now useful.

Guest

It can be done, I read these comments and I thank heaven that the area where I live is served by regular, clean, fast, comfortable trains with few occasions when it is difficult to find a seat for a couple of stops at peak times. We have Virgin and London Midland trains to London in one direction and Birmingham and the the North West all the way to Scotland in the other. The service is so good I almost never use the car unless there are four or five of us. I’ve tried other routes and operators, Cross Country, SW Trains and they are rubbish by comparison. There are good standards out there, it’s not rocket science to replicate them. I don’t think re-nationalisation is the answer I remember the dreadful standards of BR and the eternal bickering of the staff and management. I also travel a lot by rail on business in other countries and it is not all rosy and it is generally heavily subsidised. The tolerance toward our bad operators is in my view the major problem, the metrics are easily gathered. If they are hit hard in the pocket for not delivering a decent service then they will either improve or go bust, and there should be an enormous penalty for just walking away!

Guest
ken brummitt says:
23 May 2017

In my experience Virgin should have its franchises canceled but I am old enough to remember that governments of both parties were unable to run for a bus let alone run the railway, It was crap.

Guest
Anne Fairbrother says:
17 May 2017

Divert funding from HS2 to our existing infrastructure, keep people at stations (they don’t just sell tickets) and re-nationalise rail services so there is just one provider with no profit incentive.

Guest
Mark says:
17 May 2017

Cancel HS2 and invest in the current infrastructure and trains. There’s plenty of trains travelling between Manchester and London each day, and the time the journey takes is fast enough, thanks.

Guest
John Howes says:
17 May 2017

Why is there so little space for luggage on long-distance trains? My experience on Virgin trains to Liverpool is of passengers tripping over cases which have to be left in the centre aisles for lack of anywhere else to put them.

Guest
Rachel says:
17 May 2017

Disabled access is grim and very hit and miss despite booking help in advance which frequently does not materialise. Booked seats are ‘taken’. Delays, overcrowding and lack of luggage space compound the problems. Booking tickets is a nightmare, fares are so high it isn’t financially viable for people to use public transport and journeys that involve changing trains (and sometimes companies) frequently add to journey times as the timetables dovetail so badly. Trying to get across a station to another platform within minutes as hard enough for a fit person. Try doing it with a wheelchair and luggage. Or if you are elderly. Or a parent with small children. And when you know it might be hours before there is another train …. very stressful experience.

Guest
Robert Mitchell says:
17 May 2017

I haven’t used a train for years I love driving I am very glad to say . I feel for the people that have to use them .

Guest
Nikki Mitchell says:
18 May 2017

Railways “NOT FOR PROFIT!” this should be a government mandate.
Railways are part of our infrastructure so all monies over the running cost must be there for reinvestment, not profit.
I Think its a small and simple step to get people who are enthusiastic in this sector to run the railways so that it becomes sustainable without having a large chunk of the pie disappearing off into a black hole.

Guest
Steve says:
18 May 2017

A service, not a business. Renationalise and integrate services. Stop diverting ‘profits’ to shareholders in traincos, but reinvest any surplus. Employ more workers at stations. End the confusion of multiple ticket price/conditions options, with fear of significant penalties if the customer has a ‘wrong’ ticket. Pride in the service. How come other countries’ nationalised rail organisations can be running our trains (and water and energy, come to that), but it’s wrong for our country to have the same? Cease separation into franchises, and cease split between Network Rail and Operating companies. Provide appropriate facilities for disabled, families, luggage, cycles, etc. Check how other countries seem to manage this. Sometimes the public sector can provide the better service…!!

Guest
Ray Duff says:
18 May 2017

Re-nationalise the railways albeit as regionalised companies. Some could be run as Community Interest Companies and/or worker co-op’s (with strong passenger involvement).
Maintain onboard guards and staff at ALL stations. (For one thing it helps provide jobs!)
End the fines for sometimes having to get on train without tickets (More staff -not just machines- at Stations as above.
Enable, carefully, companies to also obtain finance from outside Government (as across most of Europe).
Fares need to be reduced to encourage more off-peak usage.
Invest in more carriages; and expand services especially in rural areas.
Put more freight on rail- as far as possible.
In the South East: the ‘Marshlink’ line (Ashford to Brighton) needs a minimum of 4 cars per train (not the sardine can 2 at present) and investment at smaller stations and new re-twin tracking on the Romney Marsh. This along with the return of two trains Tonbridge to Redhill /Gatwick and back.
A ‘fast’ from Kent coast to/from Charing Cross- in addition to the two current ‘slow’ ones. (Not everyone wants to go to St Pancras nor pay exorbitant amounts for HST)

Guest
David Rees says:
18 May 2017

My Rail Heaven…? Simply a service with acceptable rolling stock with seats for everyone at the busiest times. I’m not going to say my monthly ticket is expensive, because in comparison to other company’s fares it isn’t, but it should be enough provide rolling stock that can let everyone sit down in uncramped conditions.

Guest
Phil says:
18 May 2017

More people travel by bus than by train. Why don’t you start a similar campaign about the dreadful “services” run by privatised bus companies ?

Guest
John Martin says:
18 May 2017

In the good old days in the not too distant past, everyone working on the railways worked to keep the trains going day and night as a matter of pride. There were no hangers on, no admin, bureaucracy, IT: if you weren’t at the coalface you were out. Station masters kept the trains on time and everyone was well paid. Why spoil everything !

Guest
Alex Grieve says:
19 May 2017

I travel on Ciltern Trains from Warwick Parkway to Marylebone. Trains are invariably punctual and clean and I always get a seat. It is the best train set in town. Why can’t they all be like that?

Guest
Carol Chapman says:
19 May 2017

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

Guest
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.

Guest
P Kennedy says:
12 June 2017

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.

Guest

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.

Guest
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.

Guest

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.

Guest
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.

Guest

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.

Guest
Allan Reeling says:
26 June 2017

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!!!

Guest
Harry Broom says:
26 June 2017

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).

Guest

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.

Guest
Dr P.N. Jarvis says:
27 June 2017

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.