Satisfaction remains high on (some) English tramways

The latest Transport Focus Tram Passenger Survey has shown that passengers continue to be satisfied on four different English tramways – although for West Midlands Metro there has been a fall in satisfaction between 2017 and 2018. The Blackpool Tramway and Stagecoach Supertram are leading the way with 97% of passengers satisfied whilst the fourth tramway to be included is Manchester Metrolink which has remained at the same level when compared to 2017.

The survey was undertaken in the autumn with almost 5,000 people across the four networks questioned either in person or online. The sample sizes ranged from 514 in Blackpool to 2,987 in Manchester (Sheffield saw 809 interviewed with 554 on West Midlands Metro). Of note, Nottingham Express, which had previously been included in the survey from 2013 to 2017, was not part of the 2018 survey and Edinburgh Trams remains outside as well (this was included 2014-6).

The overall satisfaction ratings for each of the systems are as follows:

Blackpool Tramway – 97% (2017: 97%)

Manchester Metrolink – 89% (2017: 89%)

Stagecoach Supertram – 97% (2017: 95%)

West Midlands Metro – 87% (2017: 90%)

Surveys of this nature are always open to interpretation and it can be pot luck as to when people are asked and what the service is like on that particular day. They do, however, provide some sort of idea and these results are pleasing across the board. The higher satisfaction rating for Blackpool can probably be partially explained by the less complex nature of the system with it being a simple out and back route between Blackpool and Fleetwood but with this argument you would also expect West Midlands Metro to be at the higher end of the scale. However, it isn’t and this can be put down to poor performance – and tram availability – during the autumn period. Again Manchester Metrolink’s lower score can be explained by the sheer size of the network with the chance of things going wrong higher and with this in mind having almost nine out of 10 people satisfied can be seen as a good result. Of particular note is Supertram’s increase in satisfaction by 2% – another multi-route system but improvements were made to the timetable in January 2018 to improve punctuality which has obviously borne fruit.

As well as looking at the overall satisfaction of the journey the survey produced other findings as well. Across all systems this saw that 68% of fare paying passengers were satisfied with the value for money (same as 2017) with 89% satisfied with punctuality (again the same as in 2017). On the punctuality front all systems remained at the same level as 2017 with the exception of West Midlands Metro which saw a fall to 87% and Stagecoach Supertram which rose to 87%.

The popularity of Manchester Metrolink can be seen in some other measures; 68% were satisfied with space to sit/stand on board (a fall from 2017) and 67% were happy with the amount of personal space. Despite the frequent service offered across the network only 86% were satisfied with the length of time waiting for a tram.

Always in the public eye is the comfort of seats on public transport and it is no surprise that the rock hard seats of the West Midlands Metro come out very low in this regard. Just 55% of those questioned were satisfied with the comfort compared to 92% in Blackpool. The overall comfort rating across all systems is 74%.

Of these four systems the one major change compared to 2017 was the start of the Tram-Train service in Sheffield to Rotherham. Although only operating for part of the survey period those who were asked about this specific service gave a 100% satisfaction – probably indicative of the newness of it all!

David Sidebottom, director at Transport Focus, said: “Up and down the country tram operators are providing passengers with a very good experience. Blackpool, Manchester, Sheffield and the West Midlands can be proud that their staff’s commitment to providing a comfortable service continues having produced such good results. Operators must not rest on their laurels however. Passengers should feel their experience is worth the money paid and operators should continue to focus on areas for improvement like the cleanliness of services and providing enough space to sit or stand on every tram.”

Speaking about the Supertram improvements, Stagecoach Supertram Managing Director, said: “These survey results are a great endorsement of the commitment and hard work our people at Supertram put into delivering an excellent service for our customers. We are particularly pleased that the survey supports our own findings that the new Tram Train service has been extremely popular with users, and it is providing a key new link in South Yorkshire’s public transport network. We offer high-quality, great value, fast, frequent and punctual tram services which connect easily to other modes of transport and it’s great to see that our customers have recognised that. People in Sheffield and Rotherham rightly take great pride in their tram network and we work hard every day to deliver the services that they rely on to access employment, education, health and leisure facilities. Along with SYPTE, we are also involved in helping to safeguard the tram network for many years to come through the on-going rail replacement project. However, we are not complacent and will continue to challenge ourselves to do even better.”

* The full Transport Focus survey can be viewed online (including separate reports for each system).

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