/ 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?


Re-Nationalise the networks is the clear solution – I also want to ask just how is it that the services and fares of trains in Europe are so hugely different ? … I`ve travelled throughout Europe on trains and the services and fares are stupendously better,with fares being a fraction of the costs in the UK – the solution is simple – take away the franchises and put them back in the control of people who both know what they are doing and actually care about giving the public a real service,rather than the incompetent and greedy imbeciles that were granted franchises and receive billions a year in subsidies…it is ;ludicrous at present.

A Service which provides cleanliness, a seat to sit down on and is prompt and courteous Staff. Not overbooked, and late with interconnecting bus service – at a reasonable price and pre-booking guarantees a seat! Poor service should, by law, be compensated with a complete refund of the fare price paid, or alternative method of travel or accommodation, meals, etc. I would use rail if I could ensure that I got what I paid for.

William Richardson says:
15 May 2017

I only travel on Chiltern Railways. I am obviously lucky. They are fast, comfortable and as punctual as Japanese Railways. They are not cheap and Continental European Railways are cheaper to the customer BUT their tax-payers subsidise hugely. I am happy with the present situation. Why should my taxes go to subsidise a commuter? People who want re-nationlisation obviously never experienced British Rail.

There are far too many different fares for the same journey and finding the cheapest one which suits my needs is much too complicated and time-consuming.
There is rarely enough room for luggage even when it is just a small suitcase. I am over 80 and finding somewhere to put my suitcase is often a problem.

Stephen says:
15 May 2017

Just go to China and Japan and compare them with us. It will make you cry.

Christopher Richardson says:
15 May 2017

Full fare tickets are ridiculously expensive, often more expensive than flying, while cheaper advance tickets are too inflexible. Pricing needs to be consistent, so that one pays the same fare for a particular journey, regardless of how one carves up the tickets.

Two very simple things could make a huge difference.
(1) A single simple fare structure that applies at least across the whole rail system and possibly across all public transport. Fares based on distance. (As in Germany higher fares could be justified for traveling on faster services where a choice is available – but the lower fare must apply where there is no choice.) Scrap advance fares and the need for split ticketing. [Possibly as in Thailand sell tickets for seats with reservations and then offer reducing price standing tickets when all seats are taken.]
(2) Connections and through trains. It can be difficult to get a connecting train when you have to change from one train company to another. We need more connections and through trains that coordinate to make a joined up transport system.

I love rail travel and would rather use it than any other method of transport. However, a national, clear, easy to book, comprehensive ticketing system would be so great.
I recently went from Wirral to Tyneside. It involved 3 different rail companies (including the Transpennine ‘Express’ ha ha) booked seats and very short changeover timings from the trainline. This made for an unnecessarily stressful journey as I was unfamiliar with the intermediate stations and had to hope that each train arrived on time. I didn’t miss any connections, thank heavens, though one gave me only moments to spare. All trains were comfortable and journeys pleasant. I find the local networks of Merseyrail and Newcastle Metro wonderful, cheap, frequent and a delight. So wish that long distance links were as good.

As a Wirral resident,I do agree with your Merseyrail comments. Although the coaches are well over 30 years old,they are usually comfortable,clean and pretty punctual.
We are promised new trains in 2020/1 but the damn fool management are making them Driver Only Operated. This has,naturally enough,antagonised the unions and we’ve had two one day strikes and there is no agreement in sight.
I’m with the unions on this one,on safety/security grounds.

David Warren says:
15 May 2017

I travel regularly on Trans Pennine Express. They are generally on time but desperately overcrowded. Back in locomotive hauled train days there were far more coaches making up a train, including a buffet car.

The railways should be taken back into public ownership as soon as possible subject to existing franchises ending. The fare structure should be same across the network to avoid the confusing prices and differentials that currently exist. Road freight should be transferred onto railways by imposing actual cost of road transport onto distribution companies. Incentives for getting distribution companies to move towards local services (road mile tax? on goods).

The rail services would not have all this chaos if they had kept up to date give or take 2 or 3 years they would have the fastest new trains on the best lines with the most comfortable coaches all at a cheap price as once the latest track and signals were laid it would consist of just purchasing the rail ware as every train would use the new track for 5-10yrs saving money NOT like now where you having the youngest people using the oldest (vintage) for the same purpose

NIR (Northern Ireland Rail) manages to make a profit, have squeaky-clean trains, and run a good service. OK one is the Dublin Belfast line which would be difficult to make a mess of. But there is a good service to the north west / Derry City, via Carrickfergus, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine (big university), and some other smaller stops.
Dublin leads to Cork, Limerick and Galway – and Waterford which will be the starting point to mainland Europe.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Jimbo says:
15 May 2017

The main purpose of the UK is to be a great place to do business and its citizens are “trained” to accept this mantra. The consequence is that it is not a good place to be a customer and we have to accept that making a profit is the over-riding object. It is required by English Business Law. The railways are an excellent example where profit is the prime motive.

To move forward the country would have to accept that the customer is actually important and not just a means to increasing profit. It is a big ask and a big task. Can we achieve it? Yes we can.

We could run the railways as a service for the benefit of the passengers. Now there is some radical thinking.

I use numerous rail companies and they usually get me to where I want to be fairly well. However, my complaints about them all, to greater or lesser degrees, are with the peripherals. Today, for example, on the GWR Paddington/Great Malvern service the sink tap produced no water, so after putting soap on my hands there was no water to wash it off. That’s annoying, and should not happen on a quiet train where the supply would not run out. More likely the tap was broken and had not been fixed. On the outward journey, on a very noisy diesel train, there was a really loud resonating noise when the train reached a certain speed. This was persistent for the whole 3h+ journey. Then there are the signs that don’t work and the intermittent announcements of destinations that seem to be at the whim of the conductors who are virtually invisible on most journeys. There are some excellent exceptions, often foreign conductors, who seem to know what is expected of them. These are the kinds of situations that make travelling on trains so irksome and would have been what people joked about on the old British Rail. We have competition yes, but it seems that too many companies have decided that they are doing very nicely thank you and so do not feel they have to make any effort. The people in the offices and boardrooms who run train services should get out on their, and their competitors’, trains and sample the service, and the physical conditions to see if they are satisfied with the standards the travelling public have to accept. Better still, let me know when you are out and about and I’ll come with you to see you don’t miss anything. Oh, and one last thing how about better training for staff? It can be very patchy. No one seems to care is my impression.

Labour Party policy is right we need to renationalise as franchises come up

Lana Joyce says:
15 May 2017

Renationalise the rail services then they might match the many still publicly owned and infinitely more efficient European rail services.

Mike Hope says:
15 May 2017

Sorry, not much time – busy with work.

But I DREAD my 2 or 3 times monthly work trips into London.
Abellio Greater Anglia are better than their dreadful predecessors National Express, but trains are usually late (sometimes by a few minutes, sometimes more) and dirty and old. But worse than this, the carriages are of the cattletruck variety. Very cramped even when not over full of passengers. The dimensions of the seats make them too small for me @ 6′ and of average build. Recent journeys on Belgian and Spanish and Italian railways indicate just how much more spacious and comfortable all British trains could be – not to mention frequent and on time!

The other big problem is fragmentation of the national rail network into different franchises. Therefore big cross country journeys are difficult to plan and hard to execute. There is a lack of integration (leading to needless delays) and a lack of transparency – you tell me if you know the secret to getting the guaranteed cheapest ticket. I also do not believe in different prices at different times. There should be one guaranteed standard ticket price per journey, with reductions in specific circumstances.

I have no problem whatsoever with rail re-nationalisation.

And going back to my trips to London and elsewhere for work – because of all of the above, I often choose to drive to the edge of London or other big city, and then get the train/tube/bus/tram into the centre. London and other city transport is generally much better than the so-called national rail network.

Emily Chadwick says:
15 May 2017

No matter how far you book in advance (and I travel at least once a month), tickets are ALWAYS expensive and have become more so since they took over the previous company. If you travel at peak time, trains are horrifically over crowded, sometimes so busy that the conductor can’t even get down the train to check tickets.

Some of the trains are very, very old – at a guess from the decor, from the 70s. Virgin have’t updated anything, they’ve just slapped stickers saying ‘virgin’ over the old company names. Some have been so dirty, I haven’t been able to sit in my seat and have had to move. I could go on and on! Finally in regard to the prices, the journey I do most often is London to either Leeds or York. On occasion it has been cheaper to fly which is frankly ludicrous and contributes both to air pollution and hassle when I would much rather get the train!

I’m afraid my comment will be no good I have hardly ever used the trains since the days of steam never ever liked them since then.

Sorry not a train user