Train operator struggles to impress

REGIONAL train operator National Express East Anglia has come next to last in a national survey of customer satisfaction carried out by independent watchdog group Passenger Focus.

REGIONAL train operator National Express East Anglia has come next to last in a national survey of customer satisfaction carried out by independent watchdog group Passenger Focus.

The National Express East Anglia (NXEA) operation, which covers the Great Eastern and West Anglia mainlines out of Liverpool Street and most local services across Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, achieved an overall satisfaction rating of 76% against a national average of 81%.

This put it just 1% ahead of London Overground, the lowest rated service out of the 21 operations covered in the bi-annual service, and level with two others, the First Capital Connect and Southeastern franchises.

In contrast, the highest ratings for overall satisfaction were achieved by Heathrow Express (92%), c2c and Merseyrail (both 91%), and Chiltern Railways and Heathrow Connect (both 90%).

Passenger Focus, which conducts the survey twice a year, said that four train operators had improved significantly compared with the same period a year ago - c2c (the London-Tilbury-Southend route, also run by National Express), First Great Western, First TransPennine Express and London Overground.

NXEA was one of 16 operators where Passenger Focus said there had been no statistically significant change in overall satisfaction over the past year, although its rating was marginally improved year-on-year, up 1% compared with the Spring 2008 survey.

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Andrew Chivers, managing director of NXEA, said: “We are continuing to focus our efforts in delivering further improvements to our service and the recent encouraging trends on train service performance including punctuality of 94.3% in May 2009, the best four-weekly punctuality achieved since the franchise began in 2004, demonstrates that positive progress is being made.

“We have also commenced a wide-ranging consultation with our customers on our plans to introduce 188 new and refurbished carriages onto National Express East Anglia services, providing longer trains and many more seats at peak travel times.

“We recognise, however, there is still more work to be done in improving customer satisfaction and in meeting our customers' aspirations for higher standards of service.”

More than 26,000 passengers are surveyed for each Passenger Focus report. The latest survey was mainly conducted between January 31 and March 27, with “top up” research carried out between March 28 and April 9.