Rail companies in Sussex need to listen to their customers say MPs

Rail companies in Sussex need to listen to their customers say MPs

Brighton railway station

Mike Taggart

Simon Kirby

First published in News
Last updated
by , Business editor

Sussex MPs have called for train companies to listen to their customers following the publication of a damning survey. 

Rail companies operating in Sussex have the poorest levels of trust in the country according to a Passenger Focus study.

Passengers do not feel train companies are "on their side", and do not expect a good day-to-day service, truthfulness, fairness or good communication.

The three companies operating in the county were consistently in the bottom three of the survey.

It follows years of frustration for commuters who claim the rail network is the UK’s worst since at least 2011. Southern, which operates between Brighton and London, and Chichester and Hastings, had the lowest overall rating from passengers across a range of areas.

On truthfulness, honesty and integrity and treating customers fairly, Southern was rated worse than any other operator, according to a survey by Passenger Focus.

On principles, industry leadership and “doing the right thing when no one is looking”, Southern also scored worst.

It was also in the bottom three for value for money and industry reputation.

Out of 18 categories the operator was the worst-rated 11 times, and in the bottom three 15 times.

Southeastern, which runs services between Rye and Bexhill, was second-worst to Southern, with 15 criteria in the bottom three.

First Capital Connect, which is running the Thameslink service between Brighton and Bedford until September, was rated in the bottom three ten times and the bottom five all but once.

Most South East and London operators scored poorly on trust according to the survey, which involved 4,000 passengers and around 200 customers of each operator.

Passengers have seemingly faced years of misery, with a Which? survey rating services the worst in the UK in 2013, and Passenger Focus surveys finding the same in 2012 and 2011.

Govia, part of Southern parent company Go-Ahead, will take over the Thameslink route in September.

Southern’s Sussex networks will become part of the Govia Thameslink franchise in July 2015.

Southeastern’s East Sussex franchise ends in October but are under negotiation for an extension until 2018.

Southern admitted the results were poor but blamed bad weather in January for causing network chaos and blighting passengers’ views.

The survey aimed to examine the differences in passengers’ perceptions of rail travel and the reality.

But all three’s poor reputation was matched by their poor punctuality which was among the worst in the country. Southern accepted it was disappointing to score so poorly, but not wholly unexpected considering the study was carried out in January, when savage weather brought transport networks to a halt.

It said it was unable to deliver a reliable, punctual service when the survey was undertaken.

A spokeswoman said: “The report again draws the conclusion that there is a connection between performance and trust.

“Unfortunately the survey was completed in January – a time when our performance was severely affected by some of the worst weather in living memory.

“Since then we have been working hard with Network Rail to improve performance and have made some good progress recently with performance steadily improving month by month. “We know there is still more to do to rebuild our passengers’ trust after what was a very long, frustrating winter for many of them.”

A Southeastern spokeswoman said: “The result of the latest report is disappointing, but reflects our own research. We’ve already invested in new information screens at stations and we’ve made changes to our website to communicate better with passengers. However, we accept that we have more work to do in this area.”

A First Capital Connect spokesman said: “We care very much about our passengers' journeys and have made huge efforts to improve those elements of the service within our control and to engage in new ways with our customers to help them at times of disruption. “In the latest National Passenger Survey results passenger satisfaction on the Thameslink South route between London and Brighton rose by 18% to 80% – a record for that route.

“We know we have to do more though and will press ahead with final improvements during the remainder of our franchise such as free station wifi at key stations to give passengers even easier ways of communicating with us."

The Government said more than £38 billion would be spent over the next five years to improve the railways.

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: “Commuters in the South East have been particularly let down by incompetent ministers, who failed to introduce smart ticketing and agreed poor value franchise extensions after the West Coast fiasco.

“A Labour government will cap fares on every route, roll out smart ticketing and drive through the biggest reforms of the railways since privatisation, delivering a better deal for passengers and taxpayers."

Commuters say findings “do not surprise” them

Michael Taggart, 38, is a marketing director from Hove who commutes to London each day.

“Beleaguered is the word I think. People are just bored. They are just really sick and tired of being treated like this. But unless you have a helicopter there is no other way to get to work.

“My daily commute is the most aggravating aspect of my working week - it dominates my working life.

“The findings do not surprise me at all to be honest, the service is awful but at the same time very expensive. It's twice that of trains in Germany.

“There are never enough carriages and the multitude of reasons they come up with for cancelling services is ridiculous.

“For them to blame the weather is ridiculous. We have the best weather in this part of the country, not the worst.

“Most of the time when the train is late you have no idea why. It certainly isn't snowing. And if they are going to go with that argument, how come the trains in places like Norway are so good?

“I pay just shy of £4,000 a year for my season ticket from my post tax earnings. So that's £6,000 I have to earn to buy my train travel.

“You would not put up with paying that kind or money for such a bad service with anything else. You don't pay your electricity bill and only get power some of the time.

“We're fed up and something has to change.”

“Area has suffered from years of a lack of investment” - Simon Kirby

MP Simon Kirby, MP for Brighton Kemptown, said First Capital Connect losing their contract should act as a warning to others.

He said: “The Brighton London line is at capacity and a long term solution is needed. There is a strong argument for us getting a second line not only to solve problems of capacity but also robustness. If there is a problem at the moment it can impact the whole line whereas another line would help with that.

“This area has suffered from years of a lack of investment.”

He added: “It is very disappointing that our two services are continually near the bottom. I meet with them on a regular basis to pass on concerns of constituents which are many and various.

“People visiting Brighton and commuting to London each day deserve a decent eservice and at the moment they are not receiving it.

Mike Weatherly, MP for Hove, said: “It doesn't surprise me. The train companies really must listen to their customers who have told them time and time again that they need to improve. They need to start listening.

“I have a steady stream of complaints from constituents flagging up everything from the cancellation of services to cleanliness.

“The other complaint I have often is the lack of wifi on services.”

Comments (23)

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7:34am Sat 16 Aug 14

john newman says...

MPs also need to act to provide more rail services across Sussex. The key word is act not just talk. It is not just the rail companies that need to 'do' more. What about that second rail line to London as well?
MPs also need to act to provide more rail services across Sussex. The key word is act not just talk. It is not just the rail companies that need to 'do' more. What about that second rail line to London as well? john newman
  • Score: 2

7:58am Sat 16 Aug 14

Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit says...

The problem with the Brighton-London line is all the eggs are in one basket. One signal failure, one broken-down train and the line gets blocked (especially south of Haywards Heath). With all the billions being spent on the Thameslink programme you'd think they'd find 50 million or so to put a chord on the Arun line and also re-open the Lewes-Uckfield section, anything to give extra diversionary routes.

Oh and I do feel a bit sorry for Southern. Coming home in the evening the fast train often runs really slowly, and you know it's due to a late-running FCC stopping service in front holding up all the traffic. Mind you, I wish they wouldn't make the same announcements 500 times as they really begin to grate - especially the 'apologies'.
The problem with the Brighton-London line is all the eggs are in one basket. One signal failure, one broken-down train and the line gets blocked (especially south of Haywards Heath). With all the billions being spent on the Thameslink programme you'd think they'd find 50 million or so to put a chord on the Arun line and also re-open the Lewes-Uckfield section, anything to give extra diversionary routes. Oh and I do feel a bit sorry for Southern. Coming home in the evening the fast train often runs really slowly, and you know it's due to a late-running FCC stopping service in front holding up all the traffic. Mind you, I wish they wouldn't make the same announcements 500 times as they really begin to grate - especially the 'apologies'. Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit
  • Score: 4

8:02am Sat 16 Aug 14

Metro Reader says...

thankfully I managed to end the daily commute after 12 years, one of many issues I had was being called a customer. I had no choice but get the train from only one supplier so I was not by definition a customer, but passenger.

action is needed, not words in the run up to elections. sadly I don't think it will happen. govia have a super franchise starting very soon so they now have a monopoly in the South.

privatisation was to bring competition to the railway, seems t have gone wrong.
thankfully I managed to end the daily commute after 12 years, one of many issues I had was being called a customer. I had no choice but get the train from only one supplier so I was not by definition a customer, but passenger. action is needed, not words in the run up to elections. sadly I don't think it will happen. govia have a super franchise starting very soon so they now have a monopoly in the South. privatisation was to bring competition to the railway, seems t have gone wrong. Metro Reader
  • Score: 3

9:07am Sat 16 Aug 14

Wiggsy says...

Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit wrote:
The problem with the Brighton-London line is all the eggs are in one basket. One signal failure, one broken-down train and the line gets blocked (especially south of Haywards Heath). With all the billions being spent on the Thameslink programme you'd think they'd find 50 million or so to put a chord on the Arun line and also re-open the Lewes-Uckfield section, anything to give extra diversionary routes.

Oh and I do feel a bit sorry for Southern. Coming home in the evening the fast train often runs really slowly, and you know it's due to a late-running FCC stopping service in front holding up all the traffic. Mind you, I wish they wouldn't make the same announcements 500 times as they really begin to grate - especially the 'apologies'.
Absolutely agree - the fast Southern train from HH to Brighton in the week had the conductor apologise for it running late due to "a late running FCC train - no surprise there then" - not necessarily professional but his delivery was amusing!!
[quote][p][bold]Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit[/bold] wrote: The problem with the Brighton-London line is all the eggs are in one basket. One signal failure, one broken-down train and the line gets blocked (especially south of Haywards Heath). With all the billions being spent on the Thameslink programme you'd think they'd find 50 million or so to put a chord on the Arun line and also re-open the Lewes-Uckfield section, anything to give extra diversionary routes. Oh and I do feel a bit sorry for Southern. Coming home in the evening the fast train often runs really slowly, and you know it's due to a late-running FCC stopping service in front holding up all the traffic. Mind you, I wish they wouldn't make the same announcements 500 times as they really begin to grate - especially the 'apologies'.[/p][/quote]Absolutely agree - the fast Southern train from HH to Brighton in the week had the conductor apologise for it running late due to "a late running FCC train - no surprise there then" - not necessarily professional but his delivery was amusing!! Wiggsy
  • Score: 2

10:03am Sat 16 Aug 14

ruberducker says...

How about mps' need to listen to the people!
How about mps' need to listen to the people! ruberducker
  • Score: 2

10:51am Sat 16 Aug 14

rolivan says...

Surely the MPs have the power to take them out of Franchise and get back into Public hands.
Surely the MPs have the power to take them out of Franchise and get back into Public hands. rolivan
  • Score: 0

11:05am Sat 16 Aug 14

NickBrt says...

I agree with ruberducker - when did MPs do some listening themselves?! Pot and kettle spring to mind!
I agree with ruberducker - when did MPs do some listening themselves?! Pot and kettle spring to mind! NickBrt
  • Score: 0

11:45am Sat 16 Aug 14

getThisCoalitionOut says...

There is a petition to renationalise our railways - it had 38,000 signatures in the first 2 days. A very good idea IMO as prices of tickets are now ludicrous. Most people cannot afford to travel by train.

I looked at tickets from Eastbourne to Brighton for a cheap day return - £40 per person. How ridiculous and overpriced. Thatcher and the conservatives have always run down everything they get their hands on.

The conservatives are now privatising our NHS - do not allow them as it will end up the same way.
There is a petition to renationalise our railways - it had 38,000 signatures in the first 2 days. A very good idea IMO as prices of tickets are now ludicrous. Most people cannot afford to travel by train. I looked at tickets from Eastbourne to Brighton for a cheap day return - £40 per person. How ridiculous and overpriced. Thatcher and the conservatives have always run down everything they get their hands on. The conservatives are now privatising our NHS - do not allow them as it will end up the same way. getThisCoalitionOut
  • Score: -2

12:28pm Sat 16 Aug 14

tonyhotel71 says...

where on earth are you looking for train tickets? Its £21 in rush hour and £10 off peak. Get your facts rights before slagging anyone off.
where on earth are you looking for train tickets? Its £21 in rush hour and £10 off peak. Get your facts rights before slagging anyone off. tonyhotel71
  • Score: 0

12:41pm Sat 16 Aug 14

rolivan says...

tonyhotel71 wrote:
where on earth are you looking for train tickets? Its £21 in rush hour and £10 off peak. Get your facts rights before slagging anyone off.
It is still expensive for 'Public Transport'
[quote][p][bold]tonyhotel71[/bold] wrote: where on earth are you looking for train tickets? Its £21 in rush hour and £10 off peak. Get your facts rights before slagging anyone off.[/p][/quote]It is still expensive for 'Public Transport' rolivan
  • Score: 0

12:57pm Sat 16 Aug 14

notslimjim says...

The report is only the views of a handful of train users.

Perhaps those three companies did badly due to the high expectations of those using them?

I'm not excusing the fact that operational errors occur, but I find the trains down here do rather well for me.
The report is only the views of a handful of train users. Perhaps those three companies did badly due to the high expectations of those using them? I'm not excusing the fact that operational errors occur, but I find the trains down here do rather well for me. notslimjim
  • Score: 0

1:47pm Sat 16 Aug 14

tonyhotel71 says...

notslimjim wrote:
The report is only the views of a handful of train users.

Perhaps those three companies did badly due to the high expectations of those using them?

I'm not excusing the fact that operational errors occur, but I find the trains down here do rather well for me.
me too and rolivan totally misses the point about fares. try comparing it to cost of car.
[quote][p][bold]notslimjim[/bold] wrote: The report is only the views of a handful of train users. Perhaps those three companies did badly due to the high expectations of those using them? I'm not excusing the fact that operational errors occur, but I find the trains down here do rather well for me.[/p][/quote]me too and rolivan totally misses the point about fares. try comparing it to cost of car. tonyhotel71
  • Score: 0

1:53pm Sat 16 Aug 14

Goldenwight says...

"MPs in Sussex need to listen to their customers say Rail companies"

Just interchange the two nouns, and the story makes pretty much equal sense and similar points. Disturbing, isn't it?
"MPs in Sussex need to listen to their customers say Rail companies" Just interchange the two nouns, and the story makes pretty much equal sense and similar points. Disturbing, isn't it? Goldenwight
  • Score: 0

3:17pm Sat 16 Aug 14

notslimjim says...

Goldenwight wrote:
"MPs in Sussex need to listen to their customers say Rail companies"

Just interchange the two nouns, and the story makes pretty much equal sense and similar points. Disturbing, isn't it?
There are three nouns, but I do get your point.
[quote][p][bold]Goldenwight[/bold] wrote: "MPs in Sussex need to listen to their customers say Rail companies" Just interchange the two nouns, and the story makes pretty much equal sense and similar points. Disturbing, isn't it?[/p][/quote]There are three nouns, but I do get your point. notslimjim
  • Score: 0

4:59pm Sat 16 Aug 14

Wiggsy says...

notslimjim wrote:
The report is only the views of a handful of train users.

Perhaps those three companies did badly due to the high expectations of those using them?

I'm not excusing the fact that operational errors occur, but I find the trains down here do rather well for me.
Depends what you consider as "high expectations" - if you mean running on time with only the occassional delay then yes they are high, however, in my book that is what I'd consider as providing a normal service that my annual season ticket should justify.
[quote][p][bold]notslimjim[/bold] wrote: The report is only the views of a handful of train users. Perhaps those three companies did badly due to the high expectations of those using them? I'm not excusing the fact that operational errors occur, but I find the trains down here do rather well for me.[/p][/quote]Depends what you consider as "high expectations" - if you mean running on time with only the occassional delay then yes they are high, however, in my book that is what I'd consider as providing a normal service that my annual season ticket should justify. Wiggsy
  • Score: 1

6:04pm Sat 16 Aug 14

rolivan says...

tonyhotel71 wrote:
notslimjim wrote:
The report is only the views of a handful of train users.

Perhaps those three companies did badly due to the high expectations of those using them?

I'm not excusing the fact that operational errors occur, but I find the trains down here do rather well for me.
me too and rolivan totally misses the point about fares. try comparing it to cost of car.
No just comparing it to the cost,reliability and comfort of Public transport in France.
[quote][p][bold]tonyhotel71[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]notslimjim[/bold] wrote: The report is only the views of a handful of train users. Perhaps those three companies did badly due to the high expectations of those using them? I'm not excusing the fact that operational errors occur, but I find the trains down here do rather well for me.[/p][/quote]me too and rolivan totally misses the point about fares. try comparing it to cost of car.[/p][/quote]No just comparing it to the cost,reliability and comfort of Public transport in France. rolivan
  • Score: 1

6:42pm Sat 16 Aug 14

notslimjim says...

Wiggsy wrote:
notslimjim wrote:
The report is only the views of a handful of train users.

Perhaps those three companies did badly due to the high expectations of those using them?

I'm not excusing the fact that operational errors occur, but I find the trains down here do rather well for me.
Depends what you consider as "high expectations" - if you mean running on time with only the occassional delay then yes they are high, however, in my book that is what I'd consider as providing a normal service that my annual season ticket should justify.
The expectations are those of the ones who completed the questionnaire.
[quote][p][bold]Wiggsy[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]notslimjim[/bold] wrote: The report is only the views of a handful of train users. Perhaps those three companies did badly due to the high expectations of those using them? I'm not excusing the fact that operational errors occur, but I find the trains down here do rather well for me.[/p][/quote]Depends what you consider as "high expectations" - if you mean running on time with only the occassional delay then yes they are high, however, in my book that is what I'd consider as providing a normal service that my annual season ticket should justify.[/p][/quote]The expectations are those of the ones who completed the questionnaire. notslimjim
  • Score: 2

7:14pm Sat 16 Aug 14

Mark the cab says...

I remember BR one fast train per hour from BTN LON. Arrived when it got there! Old rolling stock etc.
Under private ownership now at least two fast trains to Victoria & various stopping services.
I can travel off peak One day travelcard inc Tube & buses 1-6 zone for £15.20 with Network card that's good value . Con charge for car £12 Central London.
So there is some value in train travel.
I remember BR one fast train per hour from BTN LON. Arrived when it got there! Old rolling stock etc. Under private ownership now at least two fast trains to Victoria & various stopping services. I can travel off peak One day travelcard inc Tube & buses 1-6 zone for £15.20 with Network card that's good value . Con charge for car £12 Central London. So there is some value in train travel. Mark the cab
  • Score: 0

9:45pm Sat 16 Aug 14

rolivan says...

Mark the cab wrote:
I remember BR one fast train per hour from BTN LON. Arrived when it got there! Old rolling stock etc.
Under private ownership now at least two fast trains to Victoria & various stopping services.
I can travel off peak One day travelcard inc Tube & buses 1-6 zone for £15.20 with Network card that's good value . Con charge for car £12 Central London.
So there is some value in train travel.
Yes I agree it is a Con.
[quote][p][bold]Mark the cab[/bold] wrote: I remember BR one fast train per hour from BTN LON. Arrived when it got there! Old rolling stock etc. Under private ownership now at least two fast trains to Victoria & various stopping services. I can travel off peak One day travelcard inc Tube & buses 1-6 zone for £15.20 with Network card that's good value . Con charge for car £12 Central London. So there is some value in train travel.[/p][/quote]Yes I agree it is a Con. rolivan
  • Score: 1

11:29pm Sat 16 Aug 14

tonyhotel71 says...

some people would like to go back to slam door stock with no air conditioning and no thames link trains which eliminates the need to switch to the underground. Including southern and FCC there are 7 trains an hour to London. 10 minute shuttle between Brighton and Hove. Yes there is always room for improvement but give some praise where its due.
some people would like to go back to slam door stock with no air conditioning and no thames link trains which eliminates the need to switch to the underground. Including southern and FCC there are 7 trains an hour to London. 10 minute shuttle between Brighton and Hove. Yes there is always room for improvement but give some praise where its due. tonyhotel71
  • Score: 0

8:47pm Sun 17 Aug 14

Nikski says...

Yes rail companies should listen to their customers, but not necessarily MP's, who are generally puffed-up windbags who probably travel in first class anyway!
Yes rail companies should listen to their customers, but not necessarily MP's, who are generally puffed-up windbags who probably travel in first class anyway! Nikski
  • Score: 0

10:38am Mon 18 Aug 14

aat99 says...

ironic to have tory mps saying listen to the passengers about railways when at the same time the tory government is wanting to auction off East Coast back to private hands when it is making a surplus for the government having had to be rescued from poor private running before. The majority of passengers on this line say leave it alone ... do the tory mps listen .... of course not !
ironic to have tory mps saying listen to the passengers about railways when at the same time the tory government is wanting to auction off East Coast back to private hands when it is making a surplus for the government having had to be rescued from poor private running before. The majority of passengers on this line say leave it alone ... do the tory mps listen .... of course not ! aat99
  • Score: 1

11:35am Mon 18 Aug 14

tonyhotel71 says...

aat99 wrote:
ironic to have tory mps saying listen to the passengers about railways when at the same time the tory government is wanting to auction off East Coast back to private hands when it is making a surplus for the government having had to be rescued from poor private running before. The majority of passengers on this line say leave it alone ... do the tory mps listen .... of course not !
fair comment
[quote][p][bold]aat99[/bold] wrote: ironic to have tory mps saying listen to the passengers about railways when at the same time the tory government is wanting to auction off East Coast back to private hands when it is making a surplus for the government having had to be rescued from poor private running before. The majority of passengers on this line say leave it alone ... do the tory mps listen .... of course not ![/p][/quote]fair comment tonyhotel71
  • Score: 0

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