Struggling Southern named worst train firm

Southern Rail
Southern Rail
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Embattled rail operator Southern has suffered its worst customer satisfaction rating in an annual survey.

The company scored just 21 per cent in the sixth edition of the annual report by consumer group Which?.

Just one star was awarded for the categories of punctuality, reliability, seat availability, frequency and value for money, with almost half (46 per cent) of travellers reporting their last journey was delayed.

Southern passengers have suffered months of disruption because of a bitter row between the company and trade unions over the role of guards and driver-only trains.

Southeastern was the second-worst performer in the report, with a rating of just 31 per cent including one star for seat availability.

This was followed by Thameslink and Great Northern – who share parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) with Southern – at 32 per cent, including only one star for frequency and the condition of their carriages.

South West Trains was fifth bottom with 36 per cent.

At the top of the table, five-star ratings for reliability and frequency helped put Merseyrail into first place with a score of 72 per cent, followed by Virgin Trains West Coast (69 per cent) and East Midlands Trains (67 per cent).

The research was based on a survey of 2,218 commuters carried out in October and November last year. Southern’s results were based on the views of 256 passengers.

Which? has launched a campaign calling for train companies to “respect passenger rights” and urged the Government to “swiftly bring forward reforms that put passengers first”.

The organisation’s director of campaigns, Vickie Sheriff, said: ‘After months of disruption, it’s no surprise to see Southern at the bottom of our customer satisfaction survey.

‘Though Southern have performed particularly badly this year, the whole sector is continually failing passengers. Overcrowding, delays, short trains, carriages in poor condition - many services aren’t providing even the basics.

“Enough is enough - we need rail services that finally deliver for their passengers.”

A GTR spokesman said: “Performance is unacceptable and we’re sincerely sorry.

“Our passengers deserve better and, together with Network Rail and its £300 million funding package to improve track signalling and overall performance, we’re working hard to improve the service.

“This survey inevitably reflects the significant impact of the wholly unjustified industrial action being taken by Aslet and the RMT. We have made comprehensive offers to resolve this.

“Our service is also hit by the ongoing additional knock-on delays from the London Bridge redevelopment on Southern and Thameslink and we have also had performance issues on Great Northern caused by weather, signal failures in key locations and problems with the ageing trains that we have begun to replace.

“We are committed to giving passengers the services they expect.”

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Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, insisted it is “not true that the whole railway is failing passengers”.

She added: “Four in five passengers were satisfied with their train journey in the last independent nationwide survey, which asks more than 10 times as many passengers as Which?, but rail companies know they can improve.”

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RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This Which? report shows that Southern are the absolute worst of a bad bunch when it comes to Britain’s rotten, privatised railways.

“The responsibility for the catastrophic mismanagement of this crucial rail operation lies fairly and squarely with the Government and their contractors GTR.”