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Crowded trains and fare rises anger rail travellers in South West

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: February 18, 2013

Rail travellers in the South West are among the least satisfied in the country

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Rail travellers in the South West are among the least satisfied in the country, figures show today, with only two train companies in the UK providing a worse service than First Great Western.

More than half the operators have a customer satisfaction score of 50 per cent or lower, according to a Which? survey, with just 22 per cent of train travellers feeling their service is improving. First Great Western scored 43 per cent.

The figures come just weeks after above-inflation fare increases were announced, and the day after the six-figure salaries of train bosses were revealed.

Even on the East Coast line, where services are being run in the public sector, as many as eight directors are on salaries of above £100,000 a year.

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The East Coast pay levels were obtained following a request from the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.

All the other train operating companies were sent FOI requests asking how many of their directors were on six-figure salaries but all said they were not obliged to reply as they are private companies.

Transport company FirstGroup runs five UK rail companies – First Capital Connect, Great Western, Hull Trains, TransPennine Express and ScotRail.

In the year ending March 2012, FirstGroup made an operating profit of £110.5 million on its UK rail business, with its revenue being £2.5 billion.

Chief executive Tim O’Toole’s basic salary for 2012 was £846,000, plus a £134,000 pension allowance and £75,000 for “benefits in kind”.

But First Capital Connect came bottom in with only 40 per cent of its passengers satisfied with its service.

Also below 50 per cent were South West Trains (47 per cent).

Top of the table, compiled from responses from 7,500 regular train users, was West Coast operator Virgin Trains with 67 per cent.

Which? said: “One First Capital Connect customer told us: ‘The price has increased and the trains get more and more crowded. I never see any improvements for the extra money I am paying’.”

The survey also showed that 40 per cent of train travellers are likely to reduce the number of journeys they make as a result of the recent price increases.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ““Passengers tell us they are fed up with trains that are delayed, overcrowded and dirty. This is especially disappointing as many commuters can’t shop around or change the company they travel with.”

“Train companies need to play fair with their customers, especially when they are being asked to pay more for their journeys.”

Responding to the Which? survey, a spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said: “The independent watchdog Passenger Focus surveys up to eight times as many people a year and last month reported 85 per cent of passengers are satisfied with their service – a record high.”

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: “One of the reasons we have the highest rail fares in Europe is because we have created an army of Fat Controllers since John Major sold off British Rail 20 years ago. Then we had one Fat Controller on a modest salary. Now we have dozens, some of whom are paid over £1 million a year for running regional monopolies at the expense of both the passenger and the taxpayer.”

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