Surrey’s biggest train operator is the worst performer nationally when it comes to handling customer complaints.

South Western Railway dealt with 80 per cent of their customer complaints within 20 days during the last three months of 2017.

Rail operators are set a target of handling 95 per cent of customer complaints within that time frame.

Govia Thameslink, operator of Southern Trains, and Great Western Railway both hit the target.

Six train operators, including Cross Country, managed to handle 100 per cent of their customer complaints within the 20 day time frame.

Complaint Handling

But both South Western Railways and Great Western Railway, who operate the vast majority of trains running in Surrey, have struggled to meet the 95 per cent target.

A South Western Railway spokesperson said: “The report reflects the position at the end of last year.

“Our response rate is currently running at over 97% and we are working hard to improve this even further.”

The number of complaints made against SWR per 100,000 passengers, has risen slightly in the last quarter, but remains comparatively low.

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But this will still make for disappointing reading for South Western bosses, given that TOCs which much higher complaint rates are performing much better when it comes to dealing with complaints in the 20 day time frame.

CrossCountry’s complaints rate has increased sharply over the 2017-18 year so far, but their complaint handling rate remains steady.

The statistics, released by the Office for Road and Rail, follow a challenging six months for South Western Railway.

The company took over the franchise in August 2017, during the middle of major engineering works at London’s busiest terminal, London Waterloo.

The works caused massive disruption for summer passengers, and a number of incidents since then have compounded SWR’s problems.

Passenger numbers in the last quarter of 2017-18 have dropped by more than 7% compared to the same period in the previous financial year.

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Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced last week that the Virgin East Coast franchise was to be renationalised under the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) brand.

South Western Railway is one of a number of poorly performing TOCs that some believe could be taken back into public ownership in a similar way.

But speaking in the House of Commons last week, the Transport Secretary said that no other franchises are in “the same position” as Virgin East Coast.

He said that “we are seeing changed patterns of ridership” on the UK rail network but that TOCs are delivering a “higher level of customer satisfaction than…prior to 2014”.

Based on article I originally wrote for Eagle Radio.

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