New polling reveals dissatisfaction with private train companies

27 December 2017

New polling released today (27 December) has revealed rising dissatisfaction among Londoners at the performance of private train operating companies around London. The polling, conducted by YouGov, asked Londoners about the performance of operators like Southern, South Western and South Eastern and revealed that only eight per cent of Londoners think commuter trains have got better in the last year, with 37 per cent of people saying they’ve got worse.  


Long-suffering rail commuters have had to deal with another year of overcrowding, delays and fare increases for services going into stations like Waterloo, London Bridge and Victoria. With the train operating companies increasing fares by an above-inflation 3.4% in January, 73 per cent of Londoners believe the Government have made the wrong decision in allowing another hike in fares. In contrast, 76 per cent of people back Sadiq Khan’s decision to freeze fares on all TfL services.


The Mayor believes that the devolution of suburban routes to TfL is the only viable long-term solution to ensure fewer delays, improved services and more affordable fares on suburban rail routes. The DfT’s recent Rail Strategy stated that it will work with TfL to explore options for transferring selected services such as the West London line to TfL, and the Mayor will continue to work with the Department of Transport to identify further suitable routes for devolved services.


Today’s polling shows that Londoners back the Mayor and TfL’s campaign to devolve control of London’s commuters routes to TfL. 61 per cent of Londoners polled said TfL should have more control of commuter trains, with only 15 per cent of people supporting the status quo. While 51 per cent of people say giving control of commuters lines to TfL would be a positive move, only eight per cent say it would have a negative impact.


By a substantial margin Londoners also think that TfL are better at running trains than the private train companies, and the latest performance figures from Network Rail show that London Overground and TfL Rail continue to significantly outperform the private train operators when it comes to punctuality and reliability. Just 6 per cent of Londoners think that private train companies are better overall at running train services, compared to 50% stating that TfL are better.


The Mayor has today (27 December) written to the Chief Executive of Network Rail expressing concerns at the repeated failings of Network Rail infrastructure, and the knock-on effect on train reliability. During the week starting 11th December hundreds of thousands of people faced a week of major disruption across south London as a result of track-side fire and circuit failure, with passengers complaining about a lack of accurate information causing confusion and unnecessarily long journeys home. The Major is urging Network Rail to do more to work with TfL to help passengers get around London quickly and easily – particularly during periods of disruption.


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “These latest figures are a damning indictment of the continuing failure of the train operating companies to provide an adequate service for passengers. Londoners are fed up of the repeated delays, cancelations and overcrowding getting in and out of London, and alongside problems with Network Rail, many timetables have become works of fiction for commuters over December. 


“Growing dissatisfaction with the private train companies shows why a further hike in rail fares this January is simply unjustifiable.


“I will continue to work with the Government on devolving more commuter routes to TfL – building on the success of the London Overground to ensure passengers get the quality and affordable service the deserve. The Government’s preferred franchise model just does not meet the needs of the high volume, high frequency suburban metro service London commuters deserve. Today’s figures are further evidence that Londoners simply won’t accept years more of substandard performance on our suburban rail routes.” 


Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “These polling figures chime with our own and others' research which shows that the rail services TfL controls consistently outperform most other London rail services. We would welcome Transport for London taking control of more London suburban routes - millions of commuters in and around London are regularly having to put up with poor performance and overcrowding while at the same time paying some of the most expensive fares in the country. Fares on London rail services are now due to increase again in the New Year by 3.4 per cent - we call on the Government to freeze fares next year and to introduce fairly-priced flexible season tickets for part-time commuters who are particularly hard-hit by fares hikes.” 

Notes to editors


  • The latest official figures from Network Rail show that between 12 November and 9 December, only 55 per cent of trains on South Western Railway and Southeastern arrived at their destination on time. For Govia Thameslink which run Southern, only 47 per cent of trains arrived on time.
  • TfL services are operating much better, with 77 per cent of trains arriving on time on London Overground, and 75 per cent of trains arriving on time on TfL Rail. 
  • These ‘Right-time performance’ figures measure the percentage of train services arriving at their terminating station early or within 59 seconds of schedule. All the latest figures can be viewed here -
  • The DfT’s recent rail strategy stated that it would will work with TfL to explore options for transferring selected services such as the West London line to TfL. This was welcomed by the Mayor and TfL, who look forward to discussing next steps with the DfT, alongside the broader case for further rail devolution.
  • The Government has confirmed that private train operating companies will be increasing fares in by an average of 3.4% from 2 January. This increase, the biggest since 2013, covers regulated fares, which includes season tickets, and unregulated fares. With many Londoners' wages not keeping up with inflation, the Mayor believes this increase in rail fares will be a further squeeze on people's income at the worst possible time. If the Mayor can freeze TfL fares London Overground and TfL services and provide a better service, the Private train operating companies should do the same.
  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,087 adults for fieldwork undertaken between and 18th – 21st December 2017.  The survey was carried out online.
  • The figures have been weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+). See full results -