2 in 5 people don’t think British railways provide good value for money to passengers

Four in 10 people (40%) rate the quality of rail services as poor according to a new Ipsos survey.

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  • Lizzie Copp Public Affairs
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New Ipsos poll finds 42% of people surveyed disagreed that the railways provided good value for money to passengers, compared to 19% who agreed. Over a third disagreed that rail services can be relied on (37%, 22% agreed) and that rail services are well run (36%, 20% agreed). Two in five (40%) disagreed that rail companies and organisations in Great Britain deliver infrastructure projects quickly and effectively, compared to 17% who agreed.

Disruptions to rail journeys

The public were asked about how often they tend to experience a disruption or alteration to their train journeys. Over half said they experience disruptions or alterations most (13%) or sometimes (42%) when they travel. However, those who travel by train at least once a week, are more likely to say they experience disruptions or alterations when they travel, with 21% saying they do most of the time and half (50%) saying they do sometimes when they travel by rail.

Almost a third (32%) of Britons said that they hardly ever experience disruptions or alterations when they travel by train. This compares to less than a quarter (23%) of Britons who travel by trains at least once a week.


 

The public were then asked whether they had made any changes to their travel plans due to concerns about disruptions and whether services would run. Almost half (49%) agreed that they had delayed making decisions about whether to travel by rail due to concern about whether services would run, while 27% disagreed.

45% agreed that they had avoided rail travel altogether and travelled by other means, due to concerns over whether particular services would run, compared to 30% who disagreed with this. 42% agreed that they had decided not to travel by rail in the last 12 months due to concerns about the reliability of services, compared to a third (32%) who disagreed. However again there are differences by frequency of train use, with more frequent rail users less likely to have changed their travel plans, and less frequent train users more likely to have delayed decision-making, or avoided rail and travelled another way, in the last 12 months.


 

Quality of Britain's rail services

The public were more likely to rate the quality of rail services as poor (40%) than good (31%), with 22% saying rail services in Britain are neither good nor poor. 

However, perceptions change when analysing by frequency of rail use. Over half of rail users who travel by train at least once a week (55%) rate the quality of rail services in Britain as good, compared to 22% who rate them as poor. Yet among those who travel by rail every 6 months to a year, 45% of these rail users rate the quality of rail services in Britain as poor, compared to 31% who rate them as good.


 

When asked to consider which factors contribute towards the quality of rail services in Britain, almost seven in ten (69%) said that decision making by train operators have contributed a great deal/ fair amount. This was followed by 65% who said that it was train operators making excessive profits, and 64% who said train workers asking for better working conditions. Just over half said that rising interest rates/ the cost of living in general (56%), the Conservative party’s transport policies in government (53%) and extreme weather causing damage to rail lines (52%) are contributing to the quality of rail services in Britain today. Just under half said that remote working (49%) and previous governments’ policies on transport (47%) are contributing towards the quality of rail services. 36% said that the UK leaving the European Union is contributing towards the quality of rail services in Britain, compared to 47% who said that it was not.

On the quality of Britain’s rail services, few expect them to get better in the next 12 months. 16% expect this to improve across Britain, and 12% across their local area. This compares to 38% who expect rail services in Great Britain to stay the same, and 37% expecting them to get worse. Likewise, almost half (48%) expect the quality of rail services in their local area to stay the same, with 30% saying they expect them to get worse.


 

Lizzie Copp, Head of Transport and Infrastructure at Public Affairs, Ipsos said of the findings:

The survey findings highlight the scale and impact of disruption felt by rail users in the last year. Over half say they tend to experience disruption at least sometimes, and nearly as many say they have delayed journey decisions, decided to travel in another way or decided not to travel altogether. Infrequent rail users are even more likely than frequent rail users to say they’ve changed their rail journeys in some way, and to hold negative perceptions of the quality of rail services. This finding, in conjunction with the public’s pessimism that the country’s rail services will get better over the next 12 months, highlight the challenge for the rail sector in boosting train use across Britain.

Technical note

Ipsos interviewed a representative quota sample of 2,174 adults aged 16-75 in Great Britain. Interviews took place on the online Omnibus 2nd – 6th February 2024. Data has been weighted to the known offline population proportions. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

The author(s)
  • Lizzie Copp Public Affairs

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