Transport Focus: the voice of Britain’s transport users
Official Event Partner: Transport Focus
Ahead of the UK Infrastructure Show 2018, we speak to the event partners about the importance of infrastructure. In today’s article we speak with Anthony Smith, Chief Executive at Transport Focus.
Sally commutes five days a week from Basingstoke to London Waterloo on a £4500 season ticket. Her partner Peter does the hour-ish drive from Basingstoke to Southampton using the M3 most days.
What makes a good journey for these transport users? How good are their current experiences? And why is it important to get their views?
As the independent watchdog for transport users across Great Britain, Transport Focus ensures that the voice of road users, train, bus, tram and coach passengers is put at the heart of operator and government decision-making and investment.
Every year Transport Focus speaks to more than 100,000 road users, train, bus, tram and coach passengers, through large annual surveys and ad hoc research. The National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) is the largest published rail satisfaction survey in the world. It gives scores for factors including value for money and punctuality.
In January, a good overall satisfaction level of 81% was let down by poor value for money scores. Just a third of commuters are satisfied with the value for money of their ticket.
Investment clearly can make a difference. Scores for Thameslink, since the renewal of the train fleet, have gone up considerably – helped by performance stabilising as well. However, the considerable investment at Waterloo last year has still to be appreciated by passengers as patchy performance saw South Western Railway’s scores dip to 75% – we are working with the operator and Network Rail to help reverse this.
Looking to the future, High Speed Two (HS2) will create a whole new transport experience. We run a passenger panel, looking at needs and aspirations for all aspects of the future service – from booking a ticket to onboard catering.
On road, we see more investment going into England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads – the strategic road network (SRN). Transport Focus has carried out research to understand the priorities of users – from lorry, van and car drivers to cyclists, equestrians and pedestrians. We have investigated overall satisfaction, priorities for improvement, the quality of road surfaces and more.
Last year we launched a motorway service station survey ranking all 112 of England’s service areas based on how road users felt about their experiences, from using the toilet facilities and quality of signage to value for money.
A number of incidents that saw motorways closed, and many drivers stuck for hours, prompted us to take a closer look at driver welfare. We wrote to Highways England and have since had the company at a Board meeting to talk about plans to do better. We will keep pressing on this issue.
Our annual Bus Passenger Survey (BPS) of around 50,000 passengers is an opportunity to pinpoint and drive improvements. Launched this year with a video message from Buses Minister Nusrat Ghani MP, we found that 88% of all passengers in England (outside London) are satisfied with their bus service (87% in 2016). However, congestion is impacting on ratings for punctuality and waiting times.
We are helping to drive improvements with our partnerships with the Liverpool City Region, West Yorkshire and West Midlands bus alliances. We use our evidence to ensure passengers’ top priorities are at the centre of local decision-making.
We have also put the spotlight on younger passengers. In February, we held an event to help operators and local authorities address the question of why young people, the largest users of buses, are the least satisfied.
Tram travel is becoming a benchmark for excellence – our latest Tram Passenger Survey had an overall satisfaction score of 91%. This year we spoke to passengers in Blackpool, Greater Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and the West Midlands.
Again, detailed satisfaction scores help drive improvements. In Edinburgh, previous TPS results showed passengers were not satisfied with service frequency, so Edinburgh Trams increased it.
Record levels of investment, pressure on public services, changing lifestyle and travel patterns – the future is emerging and Transport Focus is working hard to make sure user needs are built in to all decisions made on their behalf.
For further information, visit: www.transportfocus.org.uk.
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