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Forum topic: London rail passengers less likely to use trains if services reduced. Are we being used as guinea pigs?

London rail passengers less likely to use trains if services reduced. Are we being used as guinea pigs?

Basil Clarke

15 May 2022 01:22 #6446

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[Original article]

The results of research into how passengers feel about train services in the capital, carried out by the official watchdog organisation London Travelwatch, show dissatisfaction with fare levels, crowding and other aspects of services. A significant finding is that two thirds of passengers say that cuts to services would mean that they would be less likely to use trains. (See the box below for a summary of the findings and a link to the full report.)

class 717 train at palmers green cropped

A train at Palmers Green: Still a less common sight than it once was

Perhaps passengers travelling (or no longer travelling) on Great Northern Metro services through Palmers Green are being used as guinea pigs to test out what happens when services are reduced to pre-1970s frequencies? We (and other Great Northern and Thameslink users) seem to have been singled out from passengers elsewhere in the country when it comes to service cuts, and there's absolutely no sign that we'll ever get back to the three trains an hour off-peak that we enjoyed for more than forty years, or the four trains an hour that ran for a few years, let alone the six trains an hour that we were promised only four or five years ago.

While I'm fortunate not to have to travel in the rush hour any more, when I do venture on the now half-hourly offpeak trains, I find them much emptier than when they ran twice as often. No-one wants to just miss a train and have to wait thirty minutes, while fifteen minutes is much more acceptable. And then you have to take the risk of cancellations into account. I just hope that the government, who are about to take over deciding the level of services from the operators, won't claim that current low passenger numbers justify the indefinite continuation of a half-hourly service when the "Great" British Railways logo starts to appear on our trains. If they do, then how can they ever expect the sharp reductions in road traffic that they claim to be aiming for and are essential for tackling the utterly critical climate crisis?

New research shows London rail passengers less likely to use trains in future if timetables are reduced

cover of london rail users report

As the Government reveals the next steps in its plans to reform the railways in the Queen’s Speech, new research from London TravelWatch shows that more needs to be done to improve value for money; the way companies deal with delays and tackle crowding if Great British Railways is to live up to its aim of providing a ‘modern and improved service for passengers’.

The research also shows that although London Train passengers currently think that the frequency of their train service is adequate, if trains became less frequent, nearly 2/3 say they would use the train less.

Millions of people living in and around London rely on the train to get to work, visit friends and family or for leisure trips – in fact 70% of all train journeys actually start, finish or pass through London. Over the past few months, London TravelWatch has been talking to people* who use the train in and around London, to help understand their priorities.

The key findings in the research were:

  • In general, people thought the current frequency and punctuality of trains was ‘good enough’ but 64% said further service cuts would discourage them from using the train.
  • Only 39% of people thought their rail fares were value for money
  • 69% agreed that trains running on time is important as a matter of principle
  • Only 37% of people were satisfied with how train companies deal with delays
  • Less than half (45%) were satisfied with the level of crowding on their trains and people were divided about whether adding extra carriages could make up for less frequent services
  • 58% of people said that they got most of their information about train service changes at the station, rather than a train company website, social media or an app or alert
  • Disabled passengers are significantly more likely to be very dissatisfied with connections with other forms of transport (17%) and step-free access (18%)
  • People still thought most trains should be allocated during the peak commuting hours of 6-9am and 3-6pm. Although there was support for early morning and late night trains too.
  • 38% of people were dissatisfied with toilet facilities at stations, while many were also dissatisfied with the availability of bike/car parking

Commenting on the findings, London TravelWatch CEO, Emma Gibson said: ‘This research will give the Government and train companies food for thought as we move closer to the new Great British Railways model. People may have told us that generally rail services were OK but that could easily change if timetables are reduced further, with nearly two thirds telling us this would put them off travelling by train. Added to this, many people we spoke to don’t feel that they are getting value for money when they travel by train and they aren’t prepared to put up with crowding on their services as they might have done pre-pandemic.

Emma continued: ‘It was also interesting to see that most people still get information about trains at the station rather than on their websites, social media, apps or messaging services – a useful reminder for train companies considering closing ticket offices or changing opening hours at stations.’

Source: London Travelwatch press release


London Rail Users research debrief: How do National Rail passengers feel about the future needs of public transport in London?

Revised timetable beginning 15 May 2022

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London rail passengers less likely to use trains if services reduced. Are we being used as guinea pigs?

Karl Brown

16 May 2022 15:25 #6447

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The converse to reducing rail is of course to increase it, and as Crossrail seemed to show, that drives expected demand with areas along the planned route quickly becoming desirable and nearby businesses also paying incremental dues in some form, not least to help fund it. Crossrail 2, before it was cancelled, positioned the New Southgate area and its proposed linked station as one of London’s few Opportunity Areas in the last London Plan. Conversely, we may well end up with the anticipated housing densification around stations on our line, such as PG, without any wider commercial or even any transport benefit.
In the same joined up thinking mode, but this time actually joined up, New Zealand have just announced increased rail transport frequency plans to assist with a 20% reduction in light vehicle miles as a part of their climate emergency reaction; that and better cycleways and walkways of course.
I hope the Great British Railway sorts out the extraordinary complexity of the rail ticketing system; putting its primary focus on getting people from A to B efficiently rather than the profit maximization of same.

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