London's commuter lines: the good, the bad and the saintly

London's worst commuter train lines have been revealed after the number of customer complaints were counted - with East Coast Trains subject to the most criticism

 
South West trains out of Waterloo got the fewest number of complaints

London’s worst commuter lines are revealed today in new government statistics that show the train services passengers love to hate.

East Coast Trains, which runs northbound services out of King’s Cross, is by far the worst performer and the subject of 275 official complaints in the first three months of this year, according to a report by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

The complaints were made to two consumer groups, Passenger Focus and London TravelWatch — the number of complaints made directly to station staff and rail companies will, of course, be far higher.

Virgin Trains, with services from Euston towards Northampton, was also the focus of passenger outrage, with 230 complaints.

Southern Trains, which operates from Victoria to the south coast, got 107 complaints, and First Great Western, which runs services west out of Paddington, received 92 in the first quarter.

By comparison First Capital Connect, which runs scores of services including Thameslink, received only 41 complaints, and the London Overground a total of eight. The company with the least complaints was South West trains, which operates out of Waterloo into Surrey, with seven.

Experts say that there is a clear link between journey times and house prices – each extra minute strips £1,300 off the value of a home, according to research by Savills.

But Lucian Cook, the firm’s director of residential research, said although a poor rail service would inevitably extend journey times, not all buyers realise this until it is too late. “However some buyers will do a significant amount of research and select their lines quite carefully,” he said.

Overall the main source of complaints was delays and cancellations, accounting for a third of all complaints. Fares and refunds sparked 17 per cent of complaints. Staff conduct and complaints handling were other flashpoints.

When it comes to dealing with complaints promptly the worst offender was Virgin, which only deals with 57 per cent within 20 working days. First Great Western and London Overground deal with every single one of their complaints within this timeframe.

The ORR points out that complaints against rail firms have fallen over the last ten years, and an East Coast spokesman pointed out that, in a recent Passenger Focus survey, nine out of 10 passengers said they were satisfied with the service.

“We are continuing to work hard to improve customer service, as demonstrated by the reduction in the overall rate of complaints received,” he added.


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