Train operators must win passenger confidence

11 February 2019

UK train operators have had a bumpy ride recently. Strike action, delayed services and timetable chaos has seen traveller satisfaction plummet to a ten-year low. How can they win passenger confidence back? 

The most recent National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) landed from Transport Focus in late January 2019. The headlines didn’t make great reading for many of the UK’s train operators.

The country’s rail franchises should take note. The NRPS survey gathers views from 50,000 passengers each year. It’s a genuine network-wide overview of passengers’ satisfaction with rail travel.

In fact, the NRPS is the largest published satisfaction survey in the world that focuses on rail issues. It’s an important snapshot. Rail industry personnel and the millions of people who use the railways trust it.

Why are UK rail passengers dissatisfied?  

Nationally there were plenty of gripes. Satisfaction declined for fifteen of the country’s rail service areas.

Punctuality and reliability impacted on figures considerably, as did strike action across 2018.

Thankfully, further planned strike action by Northern was cancelled in early February. Great news for passengers and concerned train staff who for some time have said that retaining conductors on services is essential for many reasons.  

It’s one less thing to rankle with passengers when the NRPS questions are asked later this year.

The biggest improvement in satisfaction came with the availability of power sockets (a 4% increase in satisfaction).

A small win, but what do you see in most people’s hands these days?

Indeed, people need power for the multiple devices that both help and hinder daily lives.

Several of the operators have revamped their fleets and introduced additional stock over the last 12-18 months. Those new and refreshed carriages have been delivered with ample sockets – usually easy to access.

For TBM, it’s a pat on the back for work done for Hull Trains and TransPennine over the last year. Power and USB combos have been installed where carriage walls allow, with boxes added to older units with less space.

We even won an award for our slimline socket that was suitable for narrow old-style carriage walls.

The end result has been more power for travelling passengers. Mobiles, laptops and tablets matter to customers. That the operators have addressed this has been reflected in the NRPS scores.   

Winning rail passenger support is important

The scores recorded in the NRPS make fascinating if lengthy reading. It’s statistical heaven for anyone who loves numbers, trends and comparisons.

The survey is also a great barometer. While dissatisfaction rises or remains stubbornly high, the government will wince as fewer people across the UK are prepared to get out of their cars.

That’s a real issue. With too many vehicles on the road, rising levels of pollution and concerns about fuel and power sources in the coming years, the ideal solution would see people shifting to rail. For that to happen, however, capacity at peak times must improve – and facilities and conditions must meet customer expectations.

That’s where TBM has continued to offer train operators support. Seat cover cleaning improves that initial customer experience, and toilet tank overhauls help to ensure washroom facilities remain open when they are needed. That can make or break a passenger’s journey experience.  

Beyond that, TBM partners a number of companies that provide enhanced user experiences for transport operators.

There’s antimicrobial additives from Biomaster that stop germs spreading on surfaces that passenger regularly touch. We specialise in grab poles and hand rails, expertly coated in tough Nylon from Omnikote.

A vast range of new washroom products and carriage fittings are supplied by Sanitaryware Supplies so that we can complete essential upgrade projects, like work on the TransPennine Class 185 vehicles in 2018.

And let’s not forget CAPTRON, a Bavarian-based innovative tech firm that develops and manufactures a range of sensors that TBM uses for door entry upgrades on buses and trains. 


The common denominator? All of these products and services help to improve the overall passenger experience. People enjoy using train services when the facilities are good.

Get the mix right, keep on top of maintenance and introduce the new products that passengers want and satisfaction will soar.      

You can download the latest NRPS here.

If you’d like more information about how TBM can help your rail fleet, email [email protected] or call 0844 800 8577 for further information.

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