6 Service Quality and Barriers to Use

6 Service Quality and Barriers to Use

Overview

An additional aim of the research was to gather information on views of the Borders Railway service and examine barriers to use amongst one-off and non-users.  This Chapter provides a summary of the key findings in this regard.  The Chapter firstly discusses the results of an analysis of ScotRail’s passenger count data to provide a context for subsequent comments on passenger capacity issues before discussing outputs from both the User and Non-User Survey.  

Passenger Capacity 

As discussed in Chapter 2, in the first year of the railway’s operation there were a number of reports of passenger capacity constraints on the line.  In order to establish an accurate picture of capacity issues, a detailed analysis of ScotRail passenger count data was undertaken.  This data was collected during October - November 2016[8].  It is based upon multiple counts across multiple day parts on different days of the week and provides details of the maximum occupancy, number of seats and capacity utilisation across each service broken down by departure time and direction of travel.  Figure 6.1Figure 6.3 below show the maximum seated capacity utilisation on each service for each day for which data was provided.  A figure of more than 100% indicates that passengers are having to stand for at least part of their journey.

Figure 6.1: Capacity Utilisation – Weekday

Figure 6.1: Capacity Utilisation – Weekday

Figure 6.2: Capacity Utilisation – Saturday

Figure 6.2: Capacity Utilisation – Saturday

Figure 6.3: Capacity Utilisation Sunday

Figure 6.3: Capacity Utilisation Sunday

Overall, the data suggests that capacity is more problematic on Saturday services.  On weekdays there were no services where capacity is above 100% and just one service in each direction for which capacity is above 80% (07:28 departure from Tweedbank – capacity utilisation 83% and 16:19 departure from Glenrothes with Thornton – capacity utilisation 94%).  

However, on Saturdays there were three Tweedbank departures (the 09:31, 10:31, and 11:31) with capacity utilisation above 100% and a further two above 90% (10:01 and 12:01). Capacity utilisation is less problematic for Saturday trains departing Edinburgh with no trains above 100% and three above 80% (15:26 departure from Edinburgh – 82%, 17:23 departure from Edinburgh – 95% and 18:26 Edinburgh departure – 94%). 

On Sunday, there are also trains for which capacity is above 100%, with the largest capacity utilisation being 72% (11:45 departure from Tweedbank). 

Key Point:

Available passenger count data suggests that capacity is most problematic on Saturday services departing from Tweedbank.  

Service Quality 

Figure 6.4 shows the overall rating respondents to the User Survey provided for the quality of service on the Borders Railway broken down by the home location of respondents.  As shown there was generally a high level of satisfaction with the quality of service, with 24% (n=252) of respondents overall rating the service as very good and a further 56% (n=579) rating the service as good. The quality ratings were highest amongst the more infrequent users (i.e. those based overseas and elsewhere in Scotland the UK).

Figure 6.4: Quality of Service on the Borders Railway

Figure 6.4: Quality of Service on the Borders Railway

Figure 6.5 shows the net satisfaction with various aspects of service on the Borders Railway.

Figure 6.5: Net Satisfaction with aspects of service on the Borders Railway

Figure 6.5: Net Satisfaction with aspects of service on the Borders Railway

Overall, respondents reported a high degree of satisfaction, although they were least satisfied with ‘other facilities / services at the station(s)’ (with which 38% of respondents were satisfied and 38% were dissatisfied) and ‘the availability of staff at the station(s)’ (with which 33% were satisfied and 27% were dissatisfied) – both of these likely reflect the fact that all Borders stations are unstaffed without toilet facilities (except for the Interchange at Galashiels).  It is however noted that since this fieldwork was undertaken, a new customer hub, offering locally-produced refreshments as well as accessible toilet facilities, has opened at Tweedbank station.

Net satisfaction was also low for the ‘timing of bus connections between my home and the station’ (with which 25% were satisfied and 18% were dissatisfied) and ‘the availability of bus connections between my home and the station’ (with which 31% were satisfied and 18% were dissatisfied).

In terms of capacity and reliability (both of which were reported as key issues in the first year of operation), while the majority of users were satisfied, approximately a quarter of respondents in each case were dissatisfied.  Taking the sample as a whole, 62% (n=636) were satisfied with their ability to get a seat compared to 24% (n=243) who were dissatisfied while 55% (n=562) were satisfied with the reliability of the service compared to 25% (n=259) who were dissatisfied.

Figure 6.6 shows the net satisfaction with these aspects of service broken down by the departure time of the journey respondents were undertaking when surveyed i.e. AM is defined as 0700-1000, inter peak (IP) is defined as 1000-1600 and PM is defined as 1600-1800.

As shown net satisfaction with regard to getting a seat is lower amongst those travelling at the weekend.  This accords with the ScotRail passenger count data discussed above which indicated that capacity was more of an issue on weekend services.  In contrast reliability was more of an issue amongst those whose current journey was on a weekday in the PM.

Figure 6.6: Respondent satisfaction with being able to get a seat and the reliability of the service by time period of current journey

Figure 6.6: Respondent satisfaction with being able to get a seat and the reliability of the service by time period of current journey

Impact of Service on Investment Objectives 

Respondents to the User Survey were also asked to rate the impact of the Borders Railway against a number of criteria.  Figure 6.7 below shows the net agreement (proportion of respondents who agree with the statement minus proportion of respondents who disagree) for the sample as a whole and for respondents from Midlothian and Scottish Borders.  This figure clearly demonstrates the positive perception of the Borders Railway amongst respondents.  Overall, ‘promoting access to / from the Scottish Borders and Midlothian to Edinburgh’ scored the highest with a net agreement of 92% for the sample as a whole and 91% for those from Midlothian and the Scottish Borders respectively.

Figure 6.7: Impact of Borders Railway – Net Agreement

Figure 6.7: Impact of Borders Railway – Net Agreement

Key Point:

There was generally a high level of satisfaction with the quality of service, with 80% of respondents to the User Survey rating the service as very good or good. Overall, respondents were least satisfied with facilities / services at the station(s) and the availability of staff at the station(s).  

Net satisfaction was also low with regard to the timing and availability of bus connections to / from the stations.

In terms of reliability and capacity 62% were satisfied with their ability to get a seat while 55% were satisfied with the reliability of the service.

There was a positive perception of the Borders Railway amongst respondents in terms of performance against its objectives with more than 90% agreeing that railway had promoting access to / from the Scottish Borders and Midlothian to Edinburgh.

Why are people who could use the Borders Railway not using the service?

The one-off and non-users of the service who responded to the Non User Survey were asked why they didn’t use the service or why they didn’t use the service more frequently.  Overall, the most popular response was the ‘car is more convenient’ with 80% (n=150) of respondents citing this as a reason for their limited use (see Figure 6.8).  Other common responses included, ‘the lower cost of bus services’ (47%, n=107), ‘the greater convenience provided by bus options’ (39%, n=89) and ‘the ability to use the National Entitlement Card on buses’ (30%, n=67).  In total, 20% cited the reliability of the service as a reason for their limited use with a similar proportion selecting ‘difficulty getting a seat the train’ (18%) and ‘difficulty getting on the train’ (17%).

When broken down by geography it is notable that the bus is more of a draw amongst residents from Midlothian.  Overall, 55% (n=93) of Midlothian respondents selected the ‘bus is cheaper’ compared to just 24% (n=14) of the Scottish Borders sample.  In addition, a larger proportion of Midlothian residents (45%, n=77) felt that the bus was more convenient than the train (compared to just 21% for those from the Scottish Borders study area) and 34% selected the ability to use the National Entitlement Card on the bus (compared to 19% from the Scottish Borders study area).  The more positive outlook with regard to buses amongst Midlothian respondents may in part be a result of the availability of the Lothian Bus £1.60 flat fare between Edinburgh and Midlothian (which makes the bus far cheaper than the equivalent rail fare of £5.40) and could partly account for the lower than predicted use of Borders Railway service amongst Midlothian residents.   

Both the reliability and (perhaps surprisingly) the capacity of the service were bigger concerns amongst those from the Scottish Borders than Midlothian.  In total, 24% of Borders residents selected ‘too difficult to get a seat’ and ‘too difficult to get on the train’ compared to 16% and 14% respectively of Midlothian residents.  Interestingly, the proportion of one-off users selecting these options was higher than that of the non-users, particularly amongst residents of the Scottish Borders (see Table 6.1) suggesting that some one-off users may have been put off by these issues.

Table 6.1: Proportion of respondents citing difficulty getting a seat / getting on the train as a reason for their non or limited use
Respondent  Scottish Borders Midlothian
I think it is too difficult to get a seat One-off User 39% 21%
Non-user 14% 14%
All respondents 24% 14%
I think it is difficult to get on the train at the time I want to travel due to capacity issues One-off User 30% 19%
Non-user 20% 12%
All respondents 24% 16%

Figure 6.8: Reasons for not using the Borders Railway / using the service more frequently by geography

Figure 6.8: Reasons for not using the Borders Railway / using the service more frequently by geography

Key Point:

The majority (80%) of non-users / one-off users said that they didn’t use the service more frequently because the car was more convenient.  Other popular responses included, the lower cost of bus services (47%), the greater convenience provided by bus options (39%) and the ability to use the National Entitlement Card on buses (30%).   

The alternative offered by bus options was more of a draw amongst residents from Midlothian which may in part be a result of the availability of the Lothian Bus flat fare in this area making bus far cheaper than rail.   

In total, 20% cited the reliability of the service as a reason for their limited use of the service, 18% and 17% respectively selected ‘difficulty getting a seat the train’ and ‘difficulty getting on the train’.  Both the reliability and (perhaps surprisingly) the capacity of the service were bigger concerns amongst those from the Scottish Borders than Midlothian.  

What would encourage non-users / one-off users to make use of the railway / use the railway more frequently?

In total, 37% (n=84) of respondents to the Non-User Survey stated that improvements to the Borders Railway would encourage them to use the service, with proportions slightly higher amongst residents of the Scottish Borders study area (45%) compared to Midlothian (34%).  Figure 6.9 provides a breakdown of the factors which respondents said would encourage them to use the service.  The most popular response was ‘lower train fares’ with 70% (n=59) of respondents stating that this would be highly likely or likely to encourage them to use the railway. The second and third most popular responses were ‘Improved reliability’ and ‘the ability to reliably get on the train’, with 62% (n=52) and 57% (n=48) respectively selecting these options, highlighting the importance of these aspects of service amongst non-users.

Figure 6.9: Factors which would encourage use of the Borders Railway (all respondents)

Figure 6.9: Factors which would encourage use of the Borders Railway (all respondents)

When the results are broken down by geography there were slight differences in the responses.  For residents of the Midlothian study area, the most popular improvement was ‘lower train fares’ with 76% (n=44) of respondents stating that this would encourage them to use the service.  This was followed by ‘improved reliability’ (64%, n=37) and ‘the ability to reliably get on the train at the time I want to travel' (58%, n=34).  Large proportions also selected ‘improved punctuality’ (58%, n=34) and ‘the ability to reliably get a seat on the train’ (57%, n=34).  Amongst residents from the Scottish Borders study area, the most popular improvement was ‘an extension of the Borders Railway to Carlisle’ with 70% (n=18) of respondents selecting this option.  This was followed by ‘an extension of the Borders Railway to Hawick’ (65%, n=17) and ‘lower train fares’ (58%, n=15).  As with respondents from Midlothian, a large proportion of Scottish Borders respondents selected ‘the ability to reliably get a seat on the train’ (54%, n=14), ‘the ability to reliably get on the train at the time I want to travel’ (54%, n=14), ‘improved reliability’ (57%, n=15) and ‘improved punctuality’ (50%, n=13) as an issue of importance to them.

Key Point:

In total, 37% of respondents to the Non-User Survey stated that improvements to the Borders Railway would encourage them to use the service with the most popular response for the sample as a whole being lower train fares, followed by improved reliability and being able to get a seat on the train. 

In contrast to the sample as a whole and that of Midlothian respondents, amongst residents from the Scottish Borders, the most popular improvement was ‘an extension of the Borders Railway to Carlisle’ followed by ‘an extension of the Borders Railway to Hawick’.