10 - Passengers - comfort, security, information
10.1 A rail passenger service exists for the sole purpose of transporting people from one location to another. Accordingly, passengers should be put at the centre of any consideration on how to operate a rail network, because if people do not want to be passengers, the operation of trains, tracks and stations is superfluous. There were around 78 million rail passenger journeys within Scotland last year carried by ScotRail. However, in order to ensure that rail continues to retain and attract increasing numbers of passengers, we need to continue to strive to provide a high quality passenger experience.
10.2 Our policy is to work towards improving the passenger experience through:
- improving the reliability of rail passenger services (see Section 4)
- comfort of journey experience
- safety and security of journey experience
- provision of travel information
10.3 This policy aligns with research carried out by Passenger Focus which shows that the Scottish passengers want: tickets to be value for money; trains to be punctual and frequent; to be able to get a seat; and to get accurate information, particularly about delays.
Comfort - Ancillary services for passengers
10.4 In general the franchise agreement is concerned with the basic services required by passengers - access to train services. There is however a range of additional services and facilities that can be offered to passengers, such as catering and mobile communications connectivity. These are not in themselves required to get passengers from one location to another but are additional (ancillary) services that can improve the passenger experience and encourage greater rail usage. These services can be provided either free of charge to the passenger or as a revenue generating opportunity. If the company is able to generate revenue from these services, then the amount of government subsidy that it might require to run other services can be reduced.
10.5 We are keen to ensure that the next contract for services encourages the franchisee to provide better services and is able to generate revenue where possible, but without compromising the ScotRail brand.
Comfort - Mobile communication connectivity
10.6 We recognise that there are social and economic benefits for rail passengers having access to data and voice communications whilst travelling, and that providing this facility could encourage more people to travel by train. However the provision of the external signals to and from equipment on the trains and construction of signal supply equipment next to rail lines is a costly process. We also have to address the issue of rapid technological obsolescence in this fast developing field.
10.7 Mobile phone coverage on the Scottish rail network is dependent upon where mobile phone masts are situated, with very few, if any, currently installed on land owned by Network Rail. As a result, mobile coverage from trains is dependent on what commercial mobile masts are in the vicinity. The majority of the rail network in the central belt is covered, except where the rail lines are in cuttings or tunnels.
10.8 Wi-Fi type services, where high-bandwidth services are provided through local relays, are not provided on any of the ScotRail services. This is disappointing as Wi-Fi has been available elsewhere on the UK rail network since at least 2004.
10.9 We believe that access to Wi-Fi type services enables passengers to make the most of their journey by giving them the ability to access the internet, emails and media when travelling. Indeed Passenger Focus has identified that the provision of Wi-Fi is important to passengers. Their research has shown that business passengers, in particular, value the ability to work on the train with 37% identifying it a key benefit of rail travel.
10.10 All available evidence leads us to conclude that the provision of Wi-Fi type services will increase passenger volumes and improve levels of passenger satisfaction. Accordingly, we are currently working with rail industry and communications providers to see if mobile communication including Wi-Fi type services can be improved prior to the next franchise. The aim is to provide the ability of passengers to enhance their journey experience by providing access to 21st century communication technology.
10.11 We also plan to include the provision of enhanced electronic communications within the contract for future ScotRail passenger services, encouraging bidders to identify the best technical solution and invest in appropriate facilities that meet the expectations of the day.
Comfort - First Class travel
10.12 First class services rely on having rolling stock which can accommodate the extra space and the services which are included as part of a first class ticket price. There are currently first class services operating on the internal Scottish long-distance and intercity routes but there is no first class provision on other commuter or rural routes. There are also first class facilities on the cross-border trains operated by other Train Operating Companies.
10.13 The provision of first class services is currently a commercial matter for the operator of the ScotRail franchise, representing about 5% of revenue but only 0.6% of ticket sales.
10.14 Rolling stock with first class Sections have fewer seats overall compared with a fully standard configuration. On routes, and at times, when overcrowding is an issue, there could be an argument to remove first class services and provide additional capacity, and we would be interested in your views.
Safety and security issues
10.15 Ensuring passengers are, and feel, secure during their journey requires the interaction of a number of policies, activities and organisations.
10.16 In the Passenger Focus National Passenger Survey report (spring 2011) published in June 2011, 71% of ScotRail passengers stated that they were satisfied with the level of security at stations and 83% satisfied with security whilst on board. This compares with national figures of 66% and 76% respectively.
10.17 Security matters overall are still reserved to the Westminster Parliament and UK Government and as part of its license conditions a Train Operating Company (TOC), such as First ScotRail, is required to enter into a Police Service Agreement (PSA) with the British Transport Police (BTP) who police the rail network. The BTP has passenger safety and confidence at the heart of its policy objectives and has a number of initiatives including putting more officers on the network in the evening, and neighbourhood policing teams.
10.18 One of the most distressing ways to spend a rail journey is to be subject to the bad behaviour of other passengers. This can be fuelled by excessive drinking of alcohol. Currently BPT and ScotRail implement alcohol bans on specific services during events (such as services to/from rugby and football matches). However consideration is being given to whether there should be a ban on the consumption of alcohol on all trains in Scotland and we welcome views.
Safety and security - CCTV
10.19 The use of surveillance systems, such as CCTV, can reduce the amount of actual crime and make people feel more secure. There has been considerable investment over the last few years in this technology. Two thirds of stations in Scotland now have CCTV with cameras linked to two monitoring centres, in Paisley and Dunfermline. Stations with CCTV are monitored and announcements can be made and staff alerted to issues. In addition every station platform now has a help point for passengers to contact these centres directly to make inquiries and ask for assistance.
10.20 Most trains also have CCTV installed, but are not monitored on a live basis. Recordings are made to allow retrospective viewing of train incidents. We are looking at the possibility of whether these systems could be utilised more.
Safety and security - staffing on trains
10.21 Under the current franchise agreement, all ScotRail services should have a second member of staff on board the train in addition to the driver. This second member of staff focuses on customer care and revenue protection duties and is also trained to assist the driver in an emergency situation. In some cases the second member of staff is a conductor who is also responsible for certain operational duties including operating train doors.
10.22 In addition, with many of the rail stations being unstaffed, having a member of staff on board the train allows for assistance to be given to disabled people to get on and off the train. All trains have to carry ramps and staff are there to deploy them.
10.23 All of ScotRail's customer facing staff are provided with customer service training including how to handle difficult situations and conflict resolution.
10.24 It is our intention for the next franchise that a driver and another member of staff shall be present on every service.
10.25 Passengers require good quality information about what should be, and is, happening on the rail network. Train service information is disseminated through various media and it is essential that this information is consistent, accurate and provided in a timely manner.
10.26 There has been considerable investment in information systems over the last few years, and now all of the larger and busier stations have customer information screen and public address systems, and all stations have help points. In addition we currently require the franchisee to maintain a website which is one of the main ways in which travel information is obtained.
10.27 The newer trains have on-board displays showing the next station and automatic announcements, and many of the older trains have been retro-fitted with these systems. ScotRail also currently provides information in the form of audible announcements on trains that do not have systems.
10.28 All of ScotRail's stations, including smaller, un-staffed stations have an onward journey poster with details of the surrounding areas. At the larger stations, directions to buses and taxis are sign‑posted. All of this information is also available on the ScotRail website.
10.29 ScotRail also operates a customer contact centre which provides a wide range of retailing and information provision, including general travel enquiries, ticket sales, reservations, customer complaints, and enabling passengers to book assistance with their travel. The centre can be contacted by telephone, letter or email. The current franchise agreement requires that this customer contact centre has to be delivered and maintained in Scotland.
10.30 One of the greatest causes of passenger dissatisfaction is the lack of information when things go wrong with their rail journey. We are working closely with the rail industry to address this important issue and a working party involving Transport Scotland, ScotRail, Network Rail and Passenger Focus has been established. The Office of Rail Regulation is also considering what GB industry-wide improvements can be made. We would welcome views on how the provision of information can be further improved.
||How should we prioritise investment for mobile phone provision and / or Wi-Fi type high-bandwidth services?
||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?
||What issues and evidence should be considered prior to determining whether or not to ban the consumption of alcohol on trains?
||How can the provision of travel information for passengers be further improved?