Doomed Virgin Trains tops satisfaction list months before losing control of Shropshire line
Virgin Trains has recorded the highest passenger satisfaction rating of any franchised train operator in Britain, just months before it is set to lose control of the West Coast route.
More than nine out of 10 travellers said they were satisfied with their journeys when travelling with the firm, according to a survey of more than 30,000 passengers by watchdog Transport Focus.
Punctuality, value for money, toilet facilities and response to delays were among the categories which the train company was rated several percentage points higher than the average for all long-distance operators.
Services on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) have been run by Virgin Trains – owned by Virgin Group and Stagecoach – since 1997.
It covers inter-city services serving Birmingham New Street, Sandwell & Dudley, Wolverhampton, Stafford, Telford, Wellington and Shrewsbury.
But the firm is due to stop operating trains in March 2020 after its bid for the next franchise on the route was disqualified by the Department for Transport (DfT) in a row over pensions.
A Virgin Trains spokesman said: "This result shows what Virgin Trains brings to the industry. We have a relentless focus on customer service and never stop innovating, with developments such as free wi-fi for all, the removal of the Friday afternoon peak and industry-leading automatic delay repay."
The winning bidder for the new West Coast Partnership (WCP) franchise will be responsible for services on both the WCML from March 2020, and designing and running the initial HS2 high-speed services from 2026.
The National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) carried out by Transport Focus found that the proportion of journeys rated as satisfactory across all operators between February 4 and April 14 was 83 per cent. This was compared with 81 per cent in spring 2018.
West Midlands Trains achieved an 84 per cent rating, while Transport for Wales – which runs services between Aberystwyth and Birmingham, including Shrewsbury – achieved 82 per cent.
Heathrow Express – which operates on an open access agreement rather than a DfT franchise – achieved the highest rating at 95 per cent.
The lowest ratings were given to Great Northern, South Western Railway, Northern, Greater Anglia and Southeastern.