What makes a good journey for passengers?

We’ll all have our own ideas and preferences. When I’m travelling by train for work I want space to get my laptop out and a good view out of the window. If I’m catching a bus into town I look for a frequent service and a good value ticket. What almost every passenger has in common, whatever the reason they’re travelling, is they want to get there on time!

Our latest report investigated which of the many aspects of journey experience in our regular Rail User Survey are most important for rail passengers’ overall satisfaction with their journey. This confirms again that punctuality/reliability is the most important ‘driver’ of overall journey satisfaction, almost twice as important as the level of crowding onboard, the next most important aspect of the journey experience.​ The importance of punctuality and reliability might seem obvious – and it’s certainly no surprise to us – but it bears repeating, not least because the report also shows the trend in satisfaction with punctuality/reliability over the last six months going in the wrong direction. Too many passengers aren’t currently getting reliable enough rail journeys.

Ultimately, once passengers choose to travel by train, what makes a satisfactory journey is delivery of the basics. The research shows the top factors are being on time, avoiding crowding onboard, acceptable journey time, frequent enough services and cleanliness. To be successful in an era when more people can choose how they travel, the railway needs satisfied customers. Unfortunately, strike action still hangs over the railway, hitting revenue and putting people off choosing rail.

We’ve published an analysis into bus passenger satisfaction too. As on rail, satisfaction with punctuality/reliability is, by a distance, the most important driver of satisfaction. Journey time, availability of seating, cleanliness, the bus stop, and frequency of buses on that route are the other key factors. Bus frequency – more important than in our analysis in 2021 – is notable with bus networks under pressure too. Passenger numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels and the level of funding in England from April remains uncertain.

In the areas in England which successfully bid for Bus Service Improvement Plan funding is often being focused on bus priority measures to improve bus reliability and reduce journey times. This focus, often along with support for better value for money fare deals, reflects the findings in our 2020 Bus passenger priorities for improvement research.

Across both rail and bus this latest analysis provides evidence for what ‘drives’ satisfaction and reaffirms the need to maintain a focus on improving the basics to make public transport a more attractive and, above all, a more reliable choice.

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