Rail 2014 Consultation Analysis

10 Passengers - comfort, security and information

Q33 How should we prioritise investment for mobile phone provision and / or Wi-Fi type high-bandwidth services?

Table of responses

Popular themes

  1. - Good idea/high priority
  2. - Prioritise for long journeys/main routes/specific routes
  3. - Not a priority (although not necessarily a bad idea)

Key themes

10.1 The majority of respondents thought that provision of Wi-Fi on train services should be a priority. In particular, it is seen as being increasingly important for business users. There was a general consensus amongst Wi-Fi introduction supporters to prioritise particular routes, with inter-urban and long-distance services frequently being cited as the highest priority. Views on Wi-Fi implementation on commuter services were more mixed with some suggesting it would be beneficial whilst others thought that, as these were generally short journeys, there was less necessity for Wi-Fi capabilities.

10.2 In addition, many respondents thought that, whilst the implementation of Wi-Fi was not a bad idea, it was a lower priority than issues such as the provision of reliable, frequent, clean and high quality services.

10.3 Opinion was divided over whether Wi-Fi should be free-of-charge or not, with similar numbers supporting each position.

10.4 A small number of respondents thought that the decision to introduce Wi-Fi on train services should be a commercial one and left to the franchisee to decide whether it is commercially viable or not.

10.5 There was a sizeable minority of responses who thought that provision of a dedicated quiet coach was a high priority due to the mobile phone noise. The provision of Wi-Fi was often regarded as less of a problem but many still thought that there should be a part of the train where the use of all devices like laptops, mobile phones and personal stereos should be prohibited.

10.6 A minority of respondents commented on mobile phone provision with most comments suggesting that there is a need to provide improved coverage to prevent calls from being interrupted when mobile phone reception is lost. A handful of people suggested that improved mobile phone coverage should be a higher priority than Wi-Fi implementation.

Organisational and individual responses

10.7 Amongst the contributing organisations, there is general support for the introduction of Wi-Fi on train services. There is a general consensus that mobile phones and internet connectivity is essential for modern businesses and that provision of these facilities on key routes including long-distance, inter-urban and commuter routes should be prioritised above roll-out to the wider network.

10.8 This view came from all sub groups of organisations and Regional Transport Partnerships and local government groups supported the idea that mobile and Wi-Fi services should be prioritised for long distance and main routes.

10.9 A significantly larger proportion of individuals than organisations thought that mobile phone and Wi-Fi provision was not a top priority, but not necessarily a bad idea.

Equality issues

10.10 The majority of equality groups who answered this question were not in favour of prioritising these improvements over providing facilities for disabled passengers and improving the quality, cost and punctuality of travel.

"These provisions should only be put in place when all trains are fully accessible for deaf people and people with a visual impairment. If Wi-Fi is to be made available, then there should be "quiet" coaches on Scottish trains especially those where the journey is longer."
Scottish Council on Deafness

10.11 The one equality group who did agree with the idea of improving mobile phone and Wi-Fi coverage thought that this was a good idea as long as it was consistent throughout all carriages as it would provide another source of information for all passengers, especially those with hearing or visual impairments.

"They should both be provided, with as consistent a coverage as possible. These would not only allow passengers to work on the train but would offer additional audio and visual sources of communication and information for disabled passengers."
Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS)

Q34 How should we balance the need for additional seating capacity and retain the flexibility of a franchisee to offer first class services if commercially viable?

Table of responses

Popular themes

  1. - These should not be mutually exclusive/longer trains can accommodate both
  2. - Leave to operator to decide based on commercial reasoning (provision of first class travel not mandatory as part of contract)
  3. - Additional seating capacity is required as a priority over first class travel (particularly on commuter routes)

Key themes

10.12 The most frequently stated view was that the provision of additional seating and first class sections are not mutually exclusive issues and that both could be addressed by the use of longer, or greater capacity, trains. This view tended to accompany statements that the provision of adequate seating capacity should be regarded as the first priority with provision of first-class seating a secondary consideration.

10.13 There was also a sizeable number of respondents who favoured leaving this decision to the franchisee. It was thought that there was a commercial decision to be taken with regards to the balance of first class and standard provision and that this should be taken with respect to the characteristics of the route, service and demand on a route-by-route basis. Many people thought that first class provision was of most importance on long distance and cross-border services and that there were fewer requirements for first class on commuter services. A preference for first class provision on sleeper services was also stated.

10.14 The third popular theme identified was similar to theme 1, however respondents said that additional seating capacity should be given priority over first class travel, particularly on congested commuter routes. Unlike the first theme, there was no suggestion to provide additional seating capacity by lengthening trains. Instead priority should be taken from first class travel.

10.15 Many respondents were in favour of enabling declassification of first class sections when they have spare capacity during periods of congestion in standard class. It was thought that there would be benefits in offering increased flexibility to declassify or upgrade to first class as required.

10.16 A small but significant number of respondents stated that they thought the existing balance between first and standard class was about right and some were of the view that priority should be given to increased luggage capacity over first class provision. There was also some support for the creation of an intermediate class between first and standard.

10.17 Opinion about the overall merits of offering first class was split with a slight balance in favour of maintaining first class provision. However a sizeable minority stated that first class travel was no longer needed or should not be a priority.

Organisational and individual responses

10.18 Of the initial two key themes, local government groups in particular thought that the provision of additional seating and first class sections are not mutually exclusive issues and that both could be addressed by the use of longer or greater capacity trains. Community councils and economic and business groups thought that decisions should be left to the operator to make on a commercial basis.

10.19 Individuals were more inclined to state that additional seating capacity is required as a priority over first class travel, and believe this is especially true on commuter routes. A higher proportion of organisations, in particular passenger groups and equality groups, stated that they thought there should be some flexibility with first class, with the option to upgrade to first class at busy periods.

10.20 More organisations than individuals thought that first class travel should be maintained for cross-border services and other specific long distance services: Regional Transport Partnerships and economic and business groups in particular mentioned this point.

10.21 The type of comments coming from organisations included, HITRANS stating "First Class is useful and valued for those needing a quiet space for work" and the Scottish Association for Public Transport outlining "We recommend retention of 1st Class on the longer distance routes". These viewpoints are supported by Transform Scotland who said that "first class is essential on all inter-city routes" whilst SCOTS state that "There is a strong case for the provision of first class seating on inter-city services". However, there was less support for first class provision on commuter services.

Q35 - What issues and evidence should be considered prior to determining whether or not to ban the consumption of alcohol on trains?

Table of responses

Popular themes

  1. - Someone will be required to implement the ban/how will it be enforced/the focus should be on policing behaviour
  2. - No alcohol at all
  3. - Assess links between alcohol consumption on trains and antisocial behaviour

Key themes

10.22 Respondents identified a need to focus on irresponsible consumption of alcohol and policing of anti-social behaviour on train services. One of the most frequently cited concerns was the ability to enforce an alcohol ban and the burden this would place upon both the British Transport Police and the train conductor.

10.23 There were also reservations about how a ban would be operated on cross-border services with respondents asking what would happen in the dining car of cross-border services as they crossed into Scotland and the implications for passengers who have purchased alcohol south of the border.

10.24 Despite these concerns, there was a sizeable number of respondents in favour of a total ban on alcohol consumption on trains due to the impact of drunken and anti-social behaviour on other passengers.

10.25 However, a similar number of respondents advocated carrying out a detailed assessment of links between alcohol consumption on trains and anti-social behaviour prior to implementation of a total ban. They suggested that any decision to implement a complete ban should be based upon the evidence of anti-social behaviour on train services created by alcohol consumption.

10.26 There was also considerable support for the existing system of banning alcohol consumption on trains travelling to and from major sporting events and concerts. Many respondents thought that this struck a sensible balance between no restrictions on alcohol consumption and a total ban. This was often accompanied by statements that the existing system is acceptable and that the key requirement is to ensure that the majority are not punished by the actions of a minority.

10.27 An option suggested by some respondents was to only allow consumption of alcohol that is purchased on board the train. This accompanied a desire to maintain the attraction of rail travel for tourists, business users and other leisure users where responsible consumption of alcohol is regarded as part of the appeal of travelling by train. Some respondents thought that there should be a general ban on alcohol consumption on trains except on designated routes or services (e.g. tourist or sleeper services) and / or parts of the train (e.g. buffet carriage). In these instances, some respondents suggested that the catering staff should be responsible for monitoring levels of alcohol consumption to ensure it does not become excessive.

10.28 It was also stated that any decision to ban alcohol on trains should be subject to a full risk assessment and informed by a review of the likely impact on catering income.

"An outright ban would reduce the viability of the catering trolley and the Sleeper lounge car, both essential services for the West Highland Line's long-distance journeys. A ban on the consumption of alcohol other than that sold on board, may be a more viable option."
Visit Glenfinnan Marketing Group

Organisational and individual responses

10.29 In a similar pattern to previous questions, organisations and individuals agreed on two of the three main themes. A larger proportion of individuals than organisations stated that they thought there should be no alcohol at all on trains. The third theme from organisations, in particular championed by Regional Transport Partnerships, was that alcohol should be allowed but banned during certain occasions, such as for sporting events or concerts.

10.30 Organisations generally supported the responsible and moderate consumption of alcohol on trains with the priority being to tackle the anti-social behaviour of a minority. Cruise Highlands outlines that "99% of people on trains consume alcohol responsibly…Why should they be punished by the 1% who cannot be responsible?" whilst SPT states "The banning of alcohol on football specials is sensible and should be continued but a policy of zero tolerance would be preferable rather than an outright ban." This view is echoed by Transform Scotland who said: "We do not believe that the majority should be punished, rather appropriate measures should be taken against the irresponsible minority". This position was also echoed by groups like SWestrans and Passenger Focus.

10.31 Whilst most organisations suggested investigating the link between alcohol consumption on trains and antisocial behaviour, equality groups and community councils were particularly interested in this point.

10.32 The British Transport Police, trade unions, passenger groups and local authorities all noted that someone would have to be responsible for both implementation and enforcement of such a ban.

Equality issues

10.33 Equality groups generally believe that alcohol should be banned from trains. The basis of their statements comes from research which shows that the majority of abuse of disabled people on board trains comes from those passengers who are drunk.

"Research by the Equality & Human Rights Commission shows that harassment of disabled people takes place on trains and is often fuelled by drink."
National Federation of the Blind

10.34 Some groups, however, do state that a blanket ban is probably not the answer as it reflects unfairly on those that are well-behaved and enjoy the occasional drink during long journeys.

10.35 Many groups believe that most drunken behaviour on board trains is caused by customers drinking before they board trains. As such they would like to see stricter policing of stations and trains to handle such occasions.

"A ban on the consumption of alcohol on all trains in Scotland is certainly not a solution, and would affect unfairly reasonable well-behaved passengers who might want an alcoholic drink during long journeys. Bad behaviour and/or excessive drinking often start before boarding the train. We would rather encourage more effective on-train and at-station policing, rather than such a blanket ban."
Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS)

10.36 A small number of responses specifically pointed out potential dangers to women when too much alcohol is drunk on trains.

Q36 How can the provision of travel information for passengers be further improved?

Table of responses

Popular themes

  1. - Real Time (accurate) displays at stations/trains (including about the next leg of a journey where applicable)
  2. - Make staff aware of delays so they can convey information / better training for staff
  3. - Better dissemination of delay information

Key themes

10.37 A considerable number of respondents thought that the existing information provision was good although this was sometimes caveated in relation to the provision of information when services are disrupted and delayed.

10.38 The most frequently cited response was a requirement for accurate real-time information to be provided across the network on trains and at stations. There was a view that this information is not universally provided and that quality of provision varied by location. Some concerns were raised about the accuracy of the real-time information with a notable number of respondents requesting fewer automated public address (PA) system announcements and digital displays due to a perceived lack of accuracy in the information they sometimes provide. Where real-time information is provided, many users also wanted information about connecting services to be provided as well. Information on links with other transport modes was also desirable to a small number of respondents.

10.39 The second theme identified related to providing rail staff information on delays. In particular, it was thought that there is a need to ensure that staff are made fully aware of the extent of, and reason for, delays so that this information can be passed on to passengers. Alongside this issue is the need for information about alternative modes of transport available so that people can make an informed choice about continuing their journey. A lack of or generic information about disruptions is experienced as one of the biggest frustrations amongst rail travellers. Respondents stated that they valued honesty and would appreciate the full facts being provided when services are disrupted or delayed.

10.40 Related to this point was the third popular theme whereby respondents identified the need to ensure that there is accurate, timely and straightforward information available to passengers when delays and service disruptions occur. The majority of respondents stated that this was the area of information provision which is currently least successful there is a fundamental requirement for better dissemination of information about delays.

10.41 Respondents considered that the greatest opportunity to improve information dissemination was through more use of mobile technology, including new or improved apps or websites designed for viewing on smart phones. Some respondents also thought it would be beneficial to receive travel updates by text and/or email whilst a small number thought that additional use of social networking tools is desirable.

10.42 A small, but still notable, number of respondents thought that information provided on the internet could be enhanced by improving and/or streamlining existing websites. Proposals for increased functionality of websites included clearer and easier to understand ticket and fare information as well as the ability to book cycles on trains.

10.43 Some respondents thought that the quality of PA announcements can be variable and often difficult to understand. This is an issue both on board trains and at stations.

10.44 Respondents also stated that there is an ongoing requirement for high quality information at stations provided in a range of formats including traditional paper timetables. The need for better and/or easier to understand timetables and maps at stations was stated by a sizeable minority of respondents.

Organisational and individual responses

10.45 For this question, both organisations and individuals were in agreement over the three main themes that arose from responses. This is also true with regards to the order of the themes. Availability of Real Time Information was of particular importance to tourism and leisure groups, whilst passenger groups were key proponents of better dissemination of information about delays to services.

10.46 All sub groups of organisations listed staff training and making station/rail staff better informed of delays, as a requirement.

10.47 Organisations echoed the views of the public stating that existing information provision is good whilst outlining the need for accurate and up to date information to be provided when services are disrupted and delayed. HITRANS state that "There is already good information available" whilst the Scottish Association for Public Transport outline that "Existing sources of information (web, email, text messages etc) are useful, provided the information is updated regularly and accurately". SPT highlight that "information provision is probably better now than it has ever been" and SCOTS state that "provision of consistently accurate information at stations and during travel, particularly at times of disruption, is crucial". Transform Scotland identified the opportunity associated with smart phone and mobile IT devices by outlining that "Modern technology is very useful in being able to speedily convey information".

Equality issues

10.48 Equality groups were keen to point out that there needs to be more than one method of providing accurate information. There are different needs for different people and any designs to improve information provision should include methods to provide information to those with disabilities and not one method for all, i.e. someone who is deaf has different needs.

"There is always a need to have more than one source of available information as for example the information needs of deaf passengers are different from those of partially sighted passengers than those who are blind."
National Federation of the Blind, UK

10.49 Concerns were also voiced by individual members of the public about the specific requirements for information provision for vulnerable groups.

"A massive area, which impacts on all passengers, but particularly on older passengers and those with a disability… My work with disabled people has taught me that information is a much bigger issue for people of many disabilities than I had realised before. It is so easy to assume that it is things like ramps and lifts are the most important things. I believe that for many disabled and older people clear information is even more important."
Public Response

"For disabled people all trains should have timely visible and audio warnings of approaching stations. Stations also should give timely warning of train arrivals or changes of platform."
Public Response