Spotlight on Rail passenger experience

01 February 2017

The publication of the latest NRPS (National Rail Passenger Survey) scores delivered some interesting statistics, with plenty of revealing data provided by the rail travelling UK public. For TBM Rail, it’s a fascinating insight into what passengers think and want from train journeys.

Transport Focus compiled the figures based on passenger questionnaires completed last autumn. The independent transport watchdog uses the feedback to complete research, campaign and get the best possible deal for passengers.

For the rail sector, carriage overcrowding and the train strikes of 2016 that have blighted much of the southern network were always likely to dominate rail passenger conversations and, ultimately, influence survey voting. Indeed, 37% of respondents from the latest NRPS stated that punctuality and reliability affected overall satisfaction.

Still, how the modern traveller assesses the overall journey experience gives Train Operating Companies (TOCs) room for manoeuvre. Aside from punctuality, it was no surprise that cleanliness inside the trains was the second most important factor in determining satisfaction.


Over the last few years one of TBM Rail’s core activities has been dry cleaning carriage seat covers, plus refurbishing the seats and foams as required. After all, getting the covers clean is one thing, but refitting them to poor condition frames will only serve to frustrate and annoy the paying customers.

We go a step further. The safe and approved cleaning solutions we use to extract dirt and grime from seat covers also kills germs. The covers we return to TOCs are hygienic. However, before covers are refitted, TBM Rail technicians also assess the seat foam and fire-proof barrier. Safety should always be a priority where passengers are concerned.


The various train franchises all face an ongoing battle to keep trains on time, offering capacity to meet the growing demand from the UK public, and giving value for money. Some seem to get the balance right and score highly for the overall service, such as Hull Trains. They came out top for the fourth year, scoring an impressive 97% for overall satisfaction. Okay, so the operator only runs services between the Humber region and London, but it’s still a mighty impressive number.

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter, and one of the services we have helped to deliver for Hull Trains is power sockets. Almost every passenger carries a mobile phone or tablet, with many also using laptops during journeys. TBM Rail sourced and supplied approved slimline fittings that were easily integrated into the existing carriage designs. The plugs also came with a USB slot, handy when there is more than one power-hungry traveller.

Last year, Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), wrote a superb article about the need to put customers in control. She spoke about keeping passengers connected with better Wi-Fi and being ‘plugged in’ so that they could keep in touch with journey information, but also friends, family and work. So, operators that provide such infrastructure will undoubtedly prosper. Their customers will feel that that have enjoyed value while they travel in clean accommodation with great services. Offering such essential features like power sockets is something TBM Rail is extending across the UK network as TOCs realise the importance of adding such value to the on-board experience. Passengers using the Trans Pennine routes (TPE) will soon enjoy similar access to power when their devices run down.


Great to see on the latest NRPS report was an increase (albeit small) in satisfaction when it comes to toilet facilities on trains. It really is a mucky subject, but letting standards slip and leaving customers locked out and frustrated is a recipe for disaster. Toilets are a key element in the overall passenger comfort mix. TBM Rail has serviced, cleaned and refurbished tanks and toilet mechanisms for many TOCs during 2016, with client numbers growing all the time.

The tank and associated pipe work is usually the issue. They must be thoroughly cleaned (with the correct solutions) at least every six months. If not, build-up of deposits will eventually restrict and block the flow to the tank. The result: the automatic lock activates and passengers are deprived of a vital service. In most cases, the storage tank is not full. This is such a waste of an essential service.


TBM Rail have expert technicians who overhaul toilet systems and tanks at the Crewe base in Cheshire, with a mobile unit also available when it is necessary to complete the work at rail depots around the country.


The secret to constant improvement is never standing still. TBM Rail has been working with numerous providers to source the next generation of products that will take the passenger experience to new levels. From the quality of panels in carriages and the look and feel of grab rails and handles, to sensor technology that controls train doors – TBM Rail offers outstanding solutions to train companies.

These improvements will offer lasting benefits to both TOCs and passengers, and all help to restore faith in the UK rail system. The results, hopefully, translate to better scores on future NRPS reports.

News & events

  • Cost-effective passenger comfortMORE
  • Clean, efficient train fuel tanks MORE
  • Doors sensors that last, and last… MORE
  • Testing fabric protection solutionsMORE