An improved rail service depends on incentives for the companies running the trains, claim Bradford Rail Users Group.

James Vasey, of BRUG, was speaking following publication of research into what passengers want from the Northern and TransPennine rail services – whether they remain separate or combined into a single franchise.

Independent watchdog Passenger Focus found that customers thought services were punctual, reliable, and suitable for passenger needs.

However, passengers believe there could be a better quality of train on the Northern franchise, more carriages to reduce overcrowding, improved luggage space and enhanced airport services.

Access, security and staffing at smaller stations, availability of information, the adequacy of timetables, confusion about fare structures and rules and levels of fare evasion were other issues.

Chief executive Anthony Smith, of Passenger Focus, said: “For passengers using the rail network, the franchise process itself is not important. What is critical is that issues with crowding, cleanliness and staffing are addressed. While we wait for the process to start up again, we will continue to work with operators to drive improvements for the people using their trains.”

Mr Vasey said passengers’ issues would go hand-in-hand with service operators having incentives for the work they do.

He said that currently Northern Rail receives £300 million a year in subsidy from the Government. Any increase in revenue just means a decrease in subsidy, said Mr Vasey.

“There is no incentive for Northern Rail to do better or increase profit,” he said. “Incentives would improve rail services. A concession-based service would be better where Northern would be paid a fee to run the service.”

Tim Calow, of the Aire Valley Rail Users Group, said: “The outcomes of the Passenger Focus research do very much match our experience. Most passengers consider the train service to be either satisfactory or good. They do however have the same concerns that are highlighted by the research.”

Joselyn Rankin, of Northern Rail, said: “When we started our franchise, it was assumed that there would be no growth in passenger demand, there would be no change in the number and type of trains needed, and no extra costs for additional or new trains were accounted for.

“Yet since 2004, we have seen a 40 per cent growth in passenger numbers and are now carrying an additional 24 million people every year which does present us with a variety of challenges.

“In December 2011, we introduced 50 additional carriages across the five major urban hubs. These provide over two million extra seats for passengers every year but we acknowledge there is more to be done.