Rail companies make positive steps to improve passenger information

14 December 2012

The rail industry is undertaking positive work to provide better passenger information, but passengers now need to start seeing consistent improvements, says a report published by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) today.

ORR's passenger information assessment comes nine months after all train companies and Network Rail signed-up to the regulator's new obligations aimed at ensuring passengers receive appropriate, accurate and timely information. Following a detailed review of industry plans and activity, ORR found:

  • Robust plans and processes across all operators for the provision of information to passengers during times of disruption, underpinned by enhanced training and technology for frontline staff. The provision of passenger information is now a core part of staff training for many operators, and smartphones are now being introduced so that staff have the latest information and no longer find themselves 'one step behind' passengers.
  • A drive to ensure consistency between all passenger information channels, with technology currently being rolled-out across the network to link data between station platform screens, websites and mobile phone applications.
  • Improved and innovative use of social media across train operators. Twitter, for example, is being used to provide up-to-date information, with better relationships developing between train operators and passengers, and allowing direct feedback during rail disruption.

However, despite clear industry commitment to improving passenger information, the latest National Passenger Survey showed that only one third of passengers think that delays are handled well – the lowest satisfaction score in the survey. In addition, Passenger Focus' recently-published report into passengers' experiences during engineering works found that less than half were satisfied with how news about works on the line is communicated, with only around a quarter satisfied with information on the progress of works. ORR's analysis also found inconsistencies between information provided to passengers and what is happening in reality.

ORR Chief Executive, Richard Price, said:

Rail passengers have long been frustrated by the quality of information available to plan their journeys, and how they are kept informed when things go wrong. Something had to be done and that is why we welcomed the rail industry's decision this year to sign-up to new obligations to make sure passengers receive appropriate, accurate and timely information.
We have reviewed industry performance and initial findings show that while each train operator approaches the issues differently, there is a widespread commitment to improving the quality of information for passengers. New plans, staff training and technology have been introduced to help deliver better, speedier and more consistent information for passengers.
However, research still shows that passengers want to see real improvements, with the latest National Passenger Survey highlighting that only one third of passengers think that delays are handled well. ORR's review found that there are still examples of poor provision of information across the network. Passengers highlighted examples of delays in being informed that an incident is over, and, frustratingly, there are still examples of inconsistencies between information shown on platform screens and what is happening in reality. There really is no longer an excuse for this.
Challenging weather conditions across Britain are now testing the rail industry. ORR is watching carefully to see how the rail industry performs and will keep the pressure up by investigating areas of concern. Passengers want assurance that Network Rail and train operators continue to take passenger information seriously, and that is exactly what we are pressing for. The industry is getting there, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

Read ORR's December 2012 Passenger Information report pdf icon PDF, 3,533 Kb