/ 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?

Ronald Ankers says:
16 May 2017

Cheaper fares will lead to more passengers and greater investment.


On;y one solution; re-nationalise.

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.

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.

Mike smith says:
16 May 2017

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

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!

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.

Renationalise the Railways

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 .

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.

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…!!

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)

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.

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 ?

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 !

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?