TWO of the train companies serving Bradford had mixed fortunes in the latest survey of passenger satisfaction by a transport user watchdog.

Northern, whose franchise could be ended this week, were rated the worst train company overall while Grand Central came out as the best long distance train operator.

Passenger satisfaction increased from the lowest level in 10 years with Transport Focus finding that 82% of travellers were satisfied with their journeys in autumn 2019, up three percentage points year-on-year.

The operators with the highest satisfaction scores were Heathrow Express (96%), Grand Central (94%), Hull Trains (92%), Merseyrail (91%) and Chiltern Railways (90%).

The worst performers were Northern (72%), West Midlands Trains (73%), South Western Railway (74%) and TransPennine Express (79%).

A Transport Focus spokesman said: "Satisfaction is up, but this is a hollow victory for train companies.

"A small improvement on the worst score in 10 years is nothing to celebrate."

Nearly 28,000 passengers were questioned for the latest National Rail Passenger Survey.

Poor punctuality, timetable chaos and industrial action saw the satisfaction score sink to 79% in autumn 2018, which was the lowest level since 2008.

Satisfaction scores for separate parts of the rail travel experience include value for money of fares (up 1% to 47%), reliability/punctuality (up 3% to 74%) and level of crowding (up 2% to 71%).

Grand Central, which runs trains from Bradford Interchange to King's Cross, came out as best long distance operator for the ninth time and best for value for money.

The operator was also rated best overall for value for money, scoring 75%, compared with a national average of 47% and a long distance average of 56%.

Grand Central has recently completed its £9million Adelante train refurbishment programme, an area which has seen significant increases in satisfaction levels. With regards to train upkeep, there was a 14% year on year increase, with the operator scoring 92% satisfaction. Interior cleanliness rose 11% year on year, with a customer satisfaction level of 94%, and the availability of power sockets saw passenger satisfaction levels increase by 14% year on year to 87%.

Managing director Richard McClean said: “We’re absolutely delighted that once again we’ve been named as the number one long distance train company in the country with a score of 94% and to be rated best for overall value for money at 75%.

"What matters to our customers matters to us – a good service at a good price. We’re proud of our track record and our commitment to customer experience, but we can always do more to deliver more benefits for our passengers and great quality services at the heart of communities we serve.

“We have just completed the £9 million refurbishment of our entire fleet of trains. We’re also bringing additional services to our North East route and will launch our new route from Blackpool to Euston in Spring 2020.

“Together with investments in online systems and our £2.6m station investment programme across our North East and West Riding routes, we’re confident that our customers will continue to see improving benefits to travelling on our services.”

David Brown, managing director for Northern, said: “Although, year-on-year, Northern has improved in almost half the categories customers were surveyed on, the overall results are disappointing. However, when you consider the challenges faced by the rail industry in 2019, and in the north of England in particular, they are not surprising. 

"We are sorry to any customer whose experience of Northern has been disappointing; our customers deserve the best possible rail service and we are working hard, alongside our partners, to improve performance. 

“We operate almost 3,000 services each weekday on a complex network shared with several other operators and freight carriers. This has led to more congested railways across the North and, as a result, there will be times when our customers’ journeys are disrupted and impacts on punctuality. Around 70% of all delays are outside of Northern’s control and we continue to work closely with colleagues from Network Rail, and the other operators, to keep this disruption to a minimum and our customers on the move. 

“In addition, during the weeks that the NRPS survey was carried out, we saw a number of extreme weather events, including unprecedented levels of flooding in September and November, which have further impacted performance.  

“Northern is delivering a £600m investment in new and refurbished trains and better stations which will improve service reliability and provide a much better journey experience for customers. Customers in the north west will also see an improved Sunday service following a new agreement with our drivers.” 

London North Eastern Railway (LNER), which runs train from Bradford Forster Square, secured one of the highest scores for a long-distance train company, securing 89% for overall passenger satisfaction, a year-on-year improvement by two points for LNER compared to other long-distance firms.

There has also been a rise in the results for the availability of staff at stations and customer journey information.

Managing director David Horne said: “LNER is committed to providing the very best customer experience for everyone who travels with us. We continue to build on the work we’ve already done to deliver even more value for money; making travel simpler, smarter and keeping the customer at the heart of all we do.”

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: "While we are working hard to address challenges on some routes where train punctuality should be better, today's improved satisfaction scores show that passengers are feeling the benefits of investment in thousands of new carriages and extra services.

"Punctuality is stabilising on many routes and passengers will continue to see their journeys improve as we replace half the train fleet old for new by 2025."