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Seats more important than speed to rail passengers

Train passengers place more importance on seat availability than speed of journey, according to research.

Watchdog Passenger Focus found that being guaranteed a seat was the second most popular item on rail users’ wish list.

Top of the list was better value for money, which encompasses lower fares as well as all manner of improvements to the service.

More trains arriving on time was the fourth most popular demand, with quicker journeys down in ninth.

The Department for Transport last year insisted the economic benefits of faster journeys on HS2 far outweighed the 9% cost premium, and higher environmental impact, over building another standard line between London and Birmingham.

Passenger Focus director David Sidebottom said: “This research should be key reading for the rail industry and governments. It provides a wealth of data which points to passengers’ improvement priorities for years to come. It is a manifesto for rail passengers.

“Value for money is passengers’ number one priority. This is closely linked to the core provision of a good train service – more trains that run on time and delays that are dealt with effectively when they happen. The rail industry needs to continue focusing its efforts on delivering these core improvements that passengers really want whether in franchise renewals or investment programmes.”

He added: “For the first time, free Wi-Fi on trains has made it into the top ten of passengers’ priorities for improvement.”

Passengers’ top 10 priorities for rail improvement across Great Britain

1.   Price of train tickets offers better value for money

2.   Passengers always able to get a seat on the train

3.   Trains sufficiently frequent at the times I wish to travel

4.   More trains arrive on time than happens now

5.   Train company keeps passengers informed about delays

6.   Less frequent major unplanned disruptions to your journey

7.   Fewer trains cancelled than happens now

8.   Accurate and timely information available at stations

9.   Journey time is reduced

10. Free Wi-Fi available on the train

Readers' comments (2)

  • HS2 is a TOTAL NONSENSE for quite a number of reasons. We need to invest in future economic power generation, the use of communications technology to greatly reduce traffic on the roads and anything required (if indeed necessary and it probably is not) to exit from the EC millstone.
    Jim Barrack

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  • I suspect this list is weighted heavily towards commuting where price and getting a seat are the major issue. I wonder what it would look like if it were split between short and long distance trips? Also this survey does not pick up people who currently don't use the train because they can get there quicker by car or plane.

    Mr. Barrack should appreciate that HS2 has always been about providing capacity to relieve existing lines which are full to bursting and where there are few, if any, practicable options left to upgrade. The extra speed is a marginal additional cost to provide a significant extra benefit, not least being able to run more services per hour with the same number of trains. Give your fellow engineers some credit. They may have actually thought this one through!

    Engineers can discuss which routes and station locations are best, but the requirement for new lines is in my view imperative, similar to the requirement for motorways in the 1950s.
    HS2 does not preclude investing in new power generation as a cursory examination of current major UK projects will attest.

    Paradoxically, traffic levels have tended to increase as communications technology has improved. I regularly use videoconferencing but it is no substitute for face to face collaborative working - particularly in engineering!

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