RAIL companies operating in Sussex have the poorest levels of trust in the country, according to a survey published yesterday.
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 by Passenger Focus.
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 about 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.”