6 Service Quality and Barriers to Use

Borders Railway Year 2 - Evaluation - Survey of users and non-users - February 2018

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, irregular 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 comment on passenger capacity issues before discussing outputs from both the User and Non-User Surveys.

Passenger Capacity

In the first year of the railway’s operation there was a number of reports of passenger capacity issues on the line. In order to establish an accurate picture of these issues, a detailed analysis of ScotRail passenger count data was undertaken. This data was collected during May and August 2017. 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 6.1 – Figure 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 weekends and particularly Saturdays are busier than weekdays, with Saturday recording the highest average capacity and the largest number of trains with a capacity utilisation of over 100%. In addition, capacity utilisation is more of a problem on trains departing Tweedbank, with all services which recorded a capacity utilisation of more than 100% travelling in the Tweedbank – Edinburgh direction.

On Saturday, capacity utilisation was above 100% on the 09:31, 10:01 and 12:31 departures from Tweedbank (109%, 115% and 100% respectively). There were no services in the reverse direction with a capacity utilisation above 100% with the highest utilisation being the 17:54 Edinburgh – Tweedbank departure (87%).

Similarly, on Sunday, there was one service (11:45 departure from Tweedbank) with a capacity utilisation of more than 100% whereas the highest capacity utilisation in the reverse direction was 90% (16:11 departure from Edinburgh)

Based on the weekday data, capacity utilisation was above 100% on the 07:26 Tweedbank departure (112%) and the 09:59 Tweedbank departure (106%). In contrast, the highest capacity utilisation on a weekday travelling in the Edinburgh – Tweedbank direction was the 18:23 departure from Edinburgh (92%).

Key Point:
Available passenger count data suggests that capacity is most problematic on Saturdays and on 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 home location of respondents. Generally, there was a high level of satisfaction with the quality of the service with 39% (n=201) of respondents rating the quality of service as ‘Very Good’ and a further 56% (n=290) reporting that it was ‘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 in the Borders Railway. Net satisfaction is the proportion of respondents who were satisfied with the aspect of service minus the proportion of respondents who were dissatisfied.

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. The lowest net satisfaction was with ‘Other’ aspects of the service (-3% net satisfaction) with comments provided on the number of carriages available, on-board toilet facilities and lack of Wi-Fi. Net satisfaction was also low for the ‘timing of bus connections between my home and the station’ (for which 29% were satisfied and 16% were dissatisfied, ‘disabled access’ (18% satisfied and 2% dissatisfied) and the ‘availability of bus connections between my home and the station’ (32% satisfied and 16% dissatisfied).

In the Year 1 Survey, ‘other facilities / services at the station(s)’ has the lowest net satisfaction rate (0% net satisfaction). As shown in the Figure below, net satisfaction with this aspect was far higher in the Year 2 Survey (35%). At the time of the Year 1 Survey, all Borders stations were unstaffed without toilet facilities (except for the Interchange at Galashiels). However, since the Year 1 Survey a new customer hub and accessible toilet facilities has opened at Tweedbank Station. This may in part account for the higher satisfaction with these aspects in the Year 2 Survey.

Net satisfaction with the reliability of the service (a key issue in the first year of operation) was higher amongst Year 2 respondents (63%, n=502) compared to Year 1 (55%, n=562). Similarly, satisfaction with capacity was also slightly higher although the difference was more marginal with 64% (n=510) of Year 2 respondents satisfied with their ability to find a seat on the train compared to 62% (n=636) of Year 1 respondents.

Figure 6.6 shows the net satisfaction with reliability and capacity 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 10 – 1600 and PM is defined as 1600 – 1800.

Figure 6.6: Respondents satisfaction with the reliability of the service and the ability to get a seat by time period of current journey

Figure 6.6: Respondents satisfaction with the reliability of the service and the ability to get a seat by time period of current journey

Generally, net satisfaction with service reliability is lower amongst those travelling during the week. However, with regard to getting a seat net satisfaction was higher amongst those travelling on weekdays at AM and IP times compared to weekend trips. This reflects the data above which indicates that capacity is more of a problem on weekend services.

Key Point:
Satisfaction with the quality of service was higher amongst respondents to the Year 2 survey with 95% of Year 2 respondents rating the service as very good or good compared to 80% of respondents to the Year 1 Survey. Year 2 respondents were least satisfied with ‘Other’ aspects. Satisfaction was also relatively low with storage facilities for bicycles and buggies on-board the trains and the timing and availability of bus connections between home location and the station. Overall, 63% were satisfied with the reliability of the service whilst 64% were satisfied with their ability to find a seat on the train, higher than the equivalent figures for the Year 1 Survey.

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 the proportion of respondents who disagree) for the sample as a whole and for respondents from Midlothian and the Scottish Borders.

Figure 6.7: Impact of the Borders Railway (net agreement)

Figure 6.7: Impact of the Borders Railway (net agreement)

Overall, there was a positive perception of the Borders Railway amongst respondents. The highest scoring criteria were ‘promoting access to / from the Scottish Borders and Midlothian to Edinburgh’ and ‘Improving access for those without access to a car’, each of which had a net agreement of 91% for the sample as a whole. This mirrors the results from the Year 1 User Surveys which also had 91% net agreement for each of these impacts.

Key Point:
There was a positive perception of the Borders Railway amongst respondents in terms of performance against its objectives with more than 90% agreeing that the railway had promoted access to / from the Scottish Borders and Midlothian to Edinburgh as well as improving access for those without access to a car.

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

Non-users, one-off and irregular users 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, and the results can be found in the figures overleaf. Overall, the most common response was the ‘car is more convenient’ with 72% (n=181) of respondents citing this as a reason for their limited use. Other common responses including ‘the bus is cheaper’ (46%, n=115), ‘the bus is more convenient’ (43%, n=108), ‘the cost of train fares’ (38%, n=95) and ‘bus connections to the station being inconvenient’ (31%, n=77).

As with the Year 1 Survey results, the bus was more of a draw amongst residents from Midlothian with 51% (n=82) reporting that ‘the bus is cheaper’ compared to just 21% (n=19) of the Scottish Borders sample. In addition, a larger proportion of Midlothian residents (40%, n =64) felt that the bus was more convenient than the train compared to just 20% (n=18) of Scottish Borders residents. A greater proportion of Midlothian residents relative to Scottish Borders residents also cited their ability to use their National Entitlement Card for free bus travel (23% compared to 11% respectively). The more positive outlook with regard to buses amongst Midlothian respondents is likely to be a result of the availability of the Lothian Bus £1.60 flat fare and the large number of services to/from Edinburgh and corroborates the findings from the bus consultations as discussed above.

A higher proportion of Scottish Borders residents compared to Midlothian residents selected ‘the train is not reliable enough’ (29% compared to 24%) and ‘it is too difficult to get a seat’ (32% and 23% respectively). In comparison with the Year 1 evaluation, the proportion of Year 2 respondents from both the Scottish Borders and Midlothian selecting these aspects is higher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Point:
The majority of respondents (72%) stated that they did not use the service more frequently as the car was more convenient. Other common responses included the lower cost of bus services (46%), the greater convenience provided by the bus (43%), the cost of train fares (38%) and the inconvenience of bus connections (31%). As was the case during the Year 1 Survey, bus options were more of a draw amongst Midlothian residents compared to those in the Scottish Borders. This is likely to be a result of the availability of the flat fares and the more developed bus network in this area. Capacity and reliability issues were more of a concern amongst non-user respondents based in the Scottish Borders compared to Midlothian, with the proportion of respondents citing these issues in Year 2 higher than the equivalent figures in Year 1.

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

In total, 40% (n=100) of respondents to the Non-User Survey reported that improvements to the Borders Railway would encourage them to use the service. This is comparable to the results from the Year 1 evaluation in which 37% (n=84) of respondents selected this option.

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’ (84%, n=84%). Other common responses included ‘the ability to reliably get a seat on the train’ (68%, n=68), ‘the extension of the Borders Railway to Carlisle’ (68%, n=68) and ‘the ability to reliably get on the train at the time they wished to travel’ (n=63%, n=63).

Figure 6.10: Factors which would encourage use of the Borders Railway (all respondents)

Figure 6.10: Factors which would encourage use of the Borders Railway (all respondents)

There were slight differences in the responses from Midlothian and Scottish Borders residents. In Midlothian, the most popular improvements were ‘the ability to reliably get a seat on the train’ and ‘improved reliability’ (63%, n=37 respectively). This was followed by ‘the extension of the Borders Railway to Carlisle’ (61%, n=36). Other popular improvements included ‘enhanced frequency throughout the day’ (54%, n=32), ‘improved punctuality’ (53%, n=31) and ‘the ability to reliably get on the train at the time I want to travel’ (53%, n=31). For the Scottish Borders, the most popular response was ‘lower train fares’ (83, n=34). Other common responses included ‘the ability to reliably get a seat’ (78%, n=32), ‘the extension of the Borders Railway to Carlisle’ (78%, n=32) and ‘improved reliability’ (73%, n=30).

Those respondents to the Non-User Survey who said improvements would encourage them to use the service (n=100) were also asked how many trips they would make if the service was improved in the way they identified. Based on the responses provided and using the frequency factors outlined in Appendix B, it is estimated that an additional 4,924 trips per year would be made (by this sample of 100) on the service if the improvements outlined above were made.

Respondents were also asked which stations they would typically travel from and to when making these trips. As shown in Figure 6.11, a range of origin stations were selected. Overall, the largest proportion of respondents selected Tweedbank (29%, n=29). However, based on the frequency with which respondents indicated they would make their journey Eskbank was the most popular origin station accounting for 35% (n=1,743) of the estimated potential annual trips. As shown in Figure 6.12, Edinburgh Waverley was the most popular destination, accounting for 71% (n=71) of responses and 82% (n=4,024) of the potential journeys.

Figure 6.11: Origin Station of Potential Future Trips

Figure 6.11: Origin Station of Potential Future Trips

Figure 6.12: Destination Station of Potential Future Trips

Figure 6.12: Destination Station of Potential Future Trips

In order to understand the degree of modal shift such journeys would generate, respondents were also asked by which mode they currently make these journeys. The results can be seen in Figure 6.13 below.

Figure 6.13: Mode Currently used for Potential Future Trips

Figure 6.13: Mode Currently used for Potential Future Trips

Just over half of respondents stated that they currently drive all the way to their destination, with a further 6% travelling as car passengers, suggesting that, should the improvements be made, there would be some modal shift from car to rail.

However, a significant proportion (31%, n=31) stated that they currently make these journeys by bus and therefore there would also likely be some modal shift from bus to rail.

Key Point:
In total, 40% 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 being ‘lower train fares’. Whilst those in the Scottish Borders also cited ‘lower train fares’ as the most likely to encourage greater use, the most popular response in Midlothian was ‘the ability to reliably get a seat on the train’. Respondents were also asked to indicate how often they would make journeys on the line if their suggested improvements were made. Based on the frequency responses provided, it is estimated that almost 5,000 additional rail journeys per year would be made by the 100 respondents questioned, with almost 50% of these ‘car to rail’ trips and almost a third ‘bus to rail’ trips.