GTR Southern Class 377 Electrostar arriving at station

UK: After talking to rail users in and around the capital, consumer group London TravelWatch has set out what it says are passengers’ five key priorities following the pandemic.

Noting that 70% of all train journeys start, finish or pass through London, the organisation said it had found that:

  • people are highly reluctant to accept any changes that reduce capacity — ‘they do not want to see rail return to the “bad old days” where passengers barely had space to stand let alone sit’;
  • there is little support for timetable changes as a result of changing working patterns — ‘passengers want and expect frequent, reliable services and don’t think reductions in demand justify fewer trains’;
  • ‘in an ideal world’, passengers would highly value a more metro-like service across greater London and the southeast, particularly given the movement of Londoners to the suburbs;
  • passengers expect train companies to be ‘ambitious and to consistently enhance the level of service’;
  • passengers have become accustomed to a higher standard of cleanliness, and value a more pleasant environment and less dirt and litter on the train.

‘Most train companies are now running the same number of trains as they were pre-omicron but in many cases that is still a long way from the number they were running in March 2020’, said London TravelWatch CEO Emma Gibson on March 1. ‘The message from passengers is loud and clear — they are not willing to be packed into trains like sardines anymore. And in return for what many consider are expensive tickets, they expect clean, frequent and reliable services, even if there aren’t quite as many people travelling as before.

‘Train companies will need to be more flexible than ever about adding more trains to timetables if passengers tell them that’s what it will take to get them back to the railways.’