Train companies scored a “hollow victory” as passenger satisfaction increased from the lowest level in 10 years, a transport user watchdog said.

Transport Focus found that 82% of travellers were satisfied with their journeys in autumn 2019, up three percentage points year-on-year.

A spokesman for the organisation 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.

The increase in the latest survey comes as passengers in some areas, particularly in London and the South East, have benefited from more stable performance and new trains.

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

RAIL Satisfaction
(PA Graphics)

Only the latter is operated with a franchise awarded by the Department for Transport.

The top three are open access operators, while the contract to run Merseyrail is awarded by Merseytravel, the transport executive body for the Liverpool City Region.

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

Satisfaction scores for separate parts of the rail travel experience include value for money of fares (up one percentage point to 47%), reliability/punctuality (up three percentage points to 74%) and level of crowding (up two percentage points to 71%).

RAIL Satisfaction
(PA Graphics)

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.”