01 March 2022

With most train company timetables today back to where they were before the Omicron variant struck in December, London TravelWatch has published rail passengers’ five key priorities as we head out of the pandemic and into some sort of new normal. And the message to train companies is clear: passengers are no longer willing to put up with overcrowded services.

Millions of people living in and around London rely on the train to get to work, visit friends and family or for leisure trips – in fact 70% of all train journeys actually start, finish or pass through London. Over the past couple of months, London TravelWatch has been talking to people* who use the train in and around London, to help understand what their priorities are for train services both now and in the future.

The key priorities for rail passengers in the research were:

  • people are highly reluctant to accept any changes that reduce capacity – they do not want to see rail return to the “bad old days” where passengers barely had space to stand let alone sit
  • there is little support for timetable changes as a result of changing working patterns – passengers want and expect frequent, reliable services and don’t think reductions in demand justify fewer trains
  • in an ideal world, passengers would highly value a more metro-like service across Greater London and the South East, particularly given the movement of Londoners to the suburbs post-COVID
  • given the high price of National Rail tickets, passengers expect train companies to be ambitious and to consistently enhance the level of service they offer
  • passengers have become accustomed to a higher standard of cleanliness. Infection aside, they value a more pleasant environment and less dirt and litter on the train

Commenting on the findings, London TravelWatch CEO, Emma Gibson said: ‘Most train companies are now running the same number of trains as they were pre-Omicron but in many cases that is still a long way from the number they were running in March 2020. In our recent research, the message from passengers is loud and clear – they are not willing to be packed into trains like sardines anymore. And in return for what many consider are expensive tickets, they expect clean, frequent and reliable services, even if there aren’t quite as many people travelling as before.’

Emma continued: ‘Train companies will need to be more flexible than ever about adding more trains to timetables if passengers tell them that’s what it will take to get them back to the railways.’


Notes to editors

  1. London TravelWatch is the operating name for the London Transport Users Committee. We are the official watchdog representing the interests of transport users in and around London, and independent of the transport operators and government. London TravelWatch is sponsored and funded by the London Assembly, part of the Greater London Authority.
  2. * London TravelWatch’s research drew on evidence gathered from a representative survey of transport users. People who haven’t been involved so far also have an opportunity to feed their views into a survey. The survey, which will take around 15 minutes to fill in is available at: https://survey.rigourresearch.co.uk/wix/4/p694007845124.aspx?l=9 .
  3. For more information, please contact the London TravelWatch press office on 07734 055494.
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