Train customers are unhappy. Or are they?

According to new research, train companies handle passenger complaints almost as badly as they did ten years ago. In addition, punctuality levels on Britain's railways are also at their worst level in ten years. 

The research, by the consumer group 'Which?' suggests that passengers are being "failed" and urged the government to push through plans to introduce a rail ombudsman to better handle disputes.

Following an analysis of National Rail survey data, ‘Which?’ found that passengers' satisfaction with how delays are handled stands at 35%, while only 46% are happy with the way complaints are managed. This is compared with 32% and 42% respectively a decade ago.

Punctuality satisfaction has fallen by five percentage points over the same period to 72%, which is a ten-year low.

In another survey in January, ‘Which?' found the three worst train lines for delays were Southern Rail, Thameslink and Great Northern, and South Eastern. And coincidentally, only last week Thameslink were fined £13.4m for poor performance following a wave of delays and strikes during 2016 and 2017.

According to a spokesman from ‘Which?’ "Our analysis highlights that the rail industry has been failing its passengers, particularly in the way they handle delays and manage complaints. This just isn't good enough for the millions of people who are reliant on rail services on a daily basis."

He added: "The government's election manifesto made strong promises to help rail passengers, who deserve much better when rail services fail to deliver.That is why we need to see the powers and duties of the regulator strengthened, with the government swiftly pressing forward on its plans to introduce a rail ombudsman."

But is this research correct?

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, contradicted the research, claiming that the train companies were investing to improve services, providing more rolling stock and simplifying fares.

"We're making journeys better and we're sorry when customers don't get the service they expect. Four in five people say they are satisfied with their train journey and the long-term trend is one of falling customer complaints."

So who do we believe? The consumer group that did this research, or the industry body that claims to have done their own research showing that the vast majority of customers are satisfied?

It’s a sorry state of affairs when a consumer group claims that their research shows there is a major customer service problem, but the body that represents the industry believes the problem doesn’t even exist.

And let’s face it, if you are reliant on train travel, then you are left with no other option than to continue being a customer of these companies, no matter how bad their service becomes. 

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