While the number of complaints about the railways has soared, many people opt for two other survival tactics – stoicism and resignation.
This is particularly true of commuters on Southern Rail which has seen passengers facing a lottery of services that run in between almost perpetual strikes. Another one is due on February 22.
One in five passengers is “resigned to a poor service” on the UK’s railways, according to a new study which found “high levels of disillusionment”.
The dispute resolution organisation Ombudsman Services quizzed nearly 2,500 people and found the most common complaints were punctuality, customer service and overcrowding.
Their findings tally with similar surveys by the Office Of Rail And Road which showed the number and rate of passenger complaints were rising.
Reports suggest some commuters, particularly those on the overground commuter services from Brighton and Sussex, were struggling to maintain their jobs and risk censure for ongoing tardiness.
Campaign for Better Transport campaigner Lianna Etkind said late or overcrowded trains can “genuinely blight people’s lives” and said no other service industry would “get away with treating its customers so appallingly”.
She said: “Regulators need to ensure that when people complain about their train service, they aren’t just fobbed off with a copy and paste response but that real action is taken.”
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had proposed a takeover of London’s suburban commuter services but this was rejected by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. A compromise offer for the mayor to sit on the board that awards franchises has been rejected .
The Department for Transport (DfT) said more than £40billion was being invested to improve Britain’s railways.
A spokesman added: “The Department for Transport monitors the performance of all train companies against a number of areas, including delays, cancellations and short formation of trains.
“There are penalties for those who do not meet the desired standards.”
Meanwhile the debilitating dispute at Southern Rail continues with yet another 24-hour walk-out by members of the RMT on February 22. The row over role of conductors continues while another separate aspect of the dispute – Aslef’s complaint about driver-only trains – may be resolved on Thursday (February 16) by a members’ vote.
Southern Rail is able to sustain this level of disruption and its multi-million-pound price tag because of an anomaly in its contract with Government which is forced to pick up the tab for a fall in fare revenue as well as fund compensation claims. Meanwhile Southern Rail saves millions on the striker’s wages – meaning there is little financial incentive to resolve the dispute.