/ 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?


The Solution is simple – One Service, One Network. too many small companies competing with each other, not working Together. Though politically out-of-vogue, the simplest way to create an aligned, efficient Service is to Re-Nationalise the Network. Whilst in Private hands, the priority will always be to maximise profit for Shareholders, at the expense of an efficient, truly reciprocal Service…and in the end, you know, an efficient service run for the benefit of its Users, will be good for Business and good for Private Enterprise as well, because Business needs good infrastructure…What good is a Network that cannot get people to work, be they factory workers or company directors? Southern Trains has had its most atrocious year so far in terms of bad service, and yet the parent company made record profits! This smells odd, and does not add-up as a good outcome for any citizen be they rich or poor!

stuart bannerman says:
15 May 2017

Completely agree – re-nationalise. Evidence? Just look at the East Coast Mainline franchise. After its former owner failed, it was taken back into public ownership and made a good profit for the exchequer and provided a very good service, only to be re-privatised again.

Valerie Griffiths says:
15 May 2017

I couldn’t agree more.

No complaints about rail service in our part of North Oxfordshire – a new rail link from Oxford via Bicester in to London in addition to our existing services. Fast and reliable too. Ticket prices keep on rising, but that’s true of the whole rail system. So I don’t support 100% nationalisation, but it may be the answer for most of the network. It concerns me that our rail service is owned by Deutsche Bahn – but their investment has given us a great service.

I quite agree. Another point that is often forgotten is that our railways receive enormous subsidies from the taxpayer and at the same time pay large dividends to shareholders. Crazy!

Lawrence Paulson says:
15 May 2017

Renationalisation so that we have a single national railway, rather than having a fragmented system run by the state railways of other countries.

Few people seem to be aware that a major part of the old British Rail was concerned with research and development into future rail transport for the UK. Without such a body, how can the particular needs of the UK be met? We can’t expect Deutsche Bahn to be preoccupied with such matters.

My idea of train heaven (apart from the obvious things like running on time!) would be a booking system that allows those of us who actually need the priority seats to book them! And toilets that we can get into! A reliable trolley service would be useful, too.

Bernie says:
15 May 2017

If you want to no how good a rail system can be go to Japan you will be amazed.
Last time I used a train in the UK was to go to a show at the Dome. NEVER AGAIN.

Barry says:
15 May 2017

Why can’t this country run a rail service as efficient as those in Japan? Why can one country do it yet we can’t?

Mike Wheeler says:
15 May 2017

Bring it all back into public ownership. Also, set up one straightforward ticketing system.

Angela says:
15 May 2017

Rather than spending vast sums of money on HS2, I have often thought that increasing capacity to accommodate the kind of double decker trains that they have on mainland Europe could be a way for improving rail travel in the UK.

Our bridge and tunnel heights are not suitable, i believe, Angela.

Angela says:
15 May 2017

Be more imaginative malcom r…bridges and tunnels could be altered and even the track could be dug and all for less than what it is costing to build HS2….

I’m imagining all the money it would cost only for the benefit if “rush hour” passengers. I’d rather see us stagger working hours and move employers nearer workers to reduce the “rush” and the need for commute.

Angela – Which railway line would you wish to close for two or more years so the tunnels can be enlarged or all the overbridges rebuilt higher and wider?

This already being done on the Great Western main line to allow space for electrification wires. Because the railway has to be kept running the work is taking for ever, is way over budget, and the engineers putting up the masts keep hitting unknown pipes, cables, drains, and sewers. We are paying the price for having the oldest railway system in the world and for making a big mistake sixty years ago of shutting many lines and flogging off the track.

Angela says:
16 May 2017

…because the development of HS2 isn’t going to cause congestion to commuters. More flexible working is already happening and will only grow

Angela says:
16 May 2017

John – as you quite rightly point out, much updating is already happening and causing disruption.

Yes, unfortunately, many lines were shut and sold off…small matter of WWII to pay for…

Angela, I am nostalgic about steam and branch lines. I used to travel by train, like many, I have driven steam locos (not far!) and enjoy “heritage railways”. However these branch lines were built to cover most of the country before any other real transport links existed. They were supplanted by motor vehicles – at the time door to door and much more convenient. As passenger numbers fell drastically they became quite uneconomic – there is a limit to what taxpayers should subsidised. So, quite sensibly, many were closed.

We need to think about choosing our location in relation to public transport, and also about trying to reduce commuting – it wastes out time, money and resources.

I haven’t used a train for years so cannot, in all honesty, comment!

Why on earth would a factual comment like that from Wincey attract any disagreement and three thumbs down? There are plenty of perfectly good reasons why someone does not go by train; not being near a railway line could be one of them.

Martin Horton says:
15 May 2017

I believe that the railways should be renationalised and given proper funding. One of the problems in the past when they were under state ownership is that did not receive adequate investment. This time it must be a statutory requirement that the railways do receive this support. Railways must be seen as a service – a decent service – and not run just for profit.

Why SO FEW here moaning about the outrageously HIGH COST of travelling by Rail in UK?!
Has everyone just got used to / accepts living in Rip Off, Slave-to-the-Market & Shareholders Britain?
We have THE most expensive Railways in Europe. Privatisation has been a complete disaster.
Too many Fat Controllers creaming profits which should be invested back into the Network, not into offshore tax-havens.
Railways should be a PUBLICLY owned Service with PUBLICLY owned Infrastructure.
Here on the south coast we have to endure the absolute scandalous farce that IS SouthernRail.
Chris Grayling: Transport ‘Secretary’ has consistently failed to sort this mess out, he should not be in Office.
Stupid, stubborn Southern Rail trying to make trains Driver-only… dumping Guards who are there to make the trains SAFE! Unions are just trying to protect passengers.
Solution: Vote Labour and Re-Nationalise the Rail Network!

Peter says:
15 May 2017

A return train fare to London is the same for me as a return flight to Dubai. On the Dubai flight I have a comfortable seat, luggage secure in the hold and food and drink provided. On the train I fight for a seat – even a reserved seat is often occupied, nowhere secure to place luggage and food and drink, if available is at an exorbitant price.
Although the trains need significant improvements and costs reduced, when the railways were nationalised they were infinitely worse. Many people who have no experience or memory of the railways when they were nationalised advocate nationalisation but this would be a major retrograde step.

It seems perfectly obvious that what is needed is a fully integrated industry, with hardware like stations, tracks and signalling , and software like ticketing all rendered by one provider, with universal pricing.
Whether rolling stock needs to be owned by the same provider, or leased is an open question, I think.
If France, Germany and Switzerland can operate a well run and highly efficient state owned railway system, then so can we.

The only way to improve the railways is to make them a single company.
Failing that renationalise them.

Our rail service is stupidly expensive. It should be cheaper that driving a car, but is not. Most people still have to run a car to get to a railway station. Like the privatized energy companies, train companies have a ridiculous array of tariffs. Politicians bought all this on us to break the hold of the unions. They failed even to do that in the case of train companies. The government needs to appoint a think tank of experts in many fields rather than have the conceit that because they have been elected they have expertise in everything. M.P.s are incompetent at making most decisions but reluctant to properly consult.

Chris Miller says:
15 May 2017

I can only agree with Oscar – we need a single unified publicly owned service. We also need greater investment in the rail service in the north and in rural areas. We also need an increase in the frequency of rail travel and on some busy routes an increase in the number of carriages. Anyone who has travelled recently by rail on the continent will know that the rail service is far more efficient, comfortable and cheaper and is much better integrated with other local forms of public transport. Perhaps we could learn something from those systems.

Maxine Vicki Smitheram says:
15 May 2017

Renationalisation would be a priority. Trains leaving from the same platform as far as possible. I regularly collapse into a seat having had to negotiate trains leaving from platforms at the furthest distance apart at King’s Cross and then having to run to the last four carriages as the train divides. When I used to catch the train from Liverpool St it always departed from the same platform. The dirtiness of trains is becoming an issue. Visibly filthy tables, unsanitary toilets – the speed with which cleaners are meant to ensure hygiene and the quick ‘wipe-over’ methods of cleaning they are expected to employ are unacceptable. Surely many passengers become ill from using such facilities. Overcrowding on trains is a ever growing issue. We pay for the service, and it should be a matter of shame that the services are below par

Philip W. says:
15 May 2017

Have regularly used trains for last 29 years. Profit is now the operators main priority over quality of service. The situation at Southern Rail is a good example of trying to get rid of staff and risk public safety as it is eating into rich shareholders dividends. The East Coast Mainline was taken off a franchise and run as a public service and remained in profit, then sold back as a franchise. Why? Forget HS2 and upgrade existing infrastructure including significantly more investment in North of England.

Most of the EU countries have nationalised rail systems that work better than ours ever have. If ours goes back to nationalisation, which I hope they do, then we have to make sure that they get good wages and that their customer service skills are much improved.

Alasdair says:
15 May 2017

I get really annoyed with the stupid and patronising announcements like ” Thank you for travelling with ……” whichever crappy service I happen to be on. I am not a 10 year old, and I’m on this overpriced, poor quality, rip-off cattle wagon because that’s what will get me (nearly) to where I want to go. It’s time we got rid of this illusory ‘market’ (or monopoly, as I call it) and return to a constant pricing structure, which bears some resemblance to the real world. And lengthen trains and platforms.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Re Nationalise the railways and get a much improved service that sees the who picture.
I am old enough to remember the pre Beeching railways Cor you could go nearly anywhere for a day out.
Liked the “double decker” train idea as in the Continent
Something needs to be done to encourage train travel and reduce the noise and pollution
that our roads create.

Sensible prices – we have the most expensive trains in Europe. Simple tickets, just off-peak and peak time, constant across the network. Tickets to be valid on the line, not just with a given franchise holder – in fact, get rid of the franshises and re-nationalise. Sensible car parking – enough capacity, and affordable. These could be linked to ticket purchases to stop non-rail users from taking spaces.