Transport Focus release results for the ever-decreasing Tram Passenger Survey

Over the years the Transport Focus Tram Passenger Survey (TPS) has discovered the opinions of passengers on the Blackpool Tramway, Edinburgh Trams, Manchester Metrolink, Nottingham Express Transit, Stagecoach Supertram and West Midlands Metro to see just how they perceive the service offered. But the 2019/20 survey has seen just Metrolink and Supertram seek the services of Transport Focus to get those all important opinions to help increase passenger levels and improve the service for those long-standing travellers with other systems presumably going their own way with surveys instead. Of those two systems which have continued to use this survey there has been a decrease in the overall satisfaction figure in comparison to the previous year.

With the survey taking place in the pre COVID-19 environment (November 2019-January 2020) and one of the perceived aims of the TPS being how to increase passenger levels it could be perceived to be just random numbers which can no longer contribute to planning for the tram systems involved but it does at least show what those travellers questions were thinking at the time of the survey.

The survey took place between 1st November 2019 and 18th January 2020 although in Sheffield interviewers didn’t start to question travellers until late November because of service suspension owing to flooding and there was also disruption on the tram-train service during December with both vehicle and signalling issues so this was also delayed in January 2020 (it could, of course, be argued that this is actually the very time that surveys like this should take place!). In total 2876 surveys were completed in Manchester and 455 in Sheffield.

The overall satisfaction for the two systems is as follows (with last year’s in brackets):

Manchester Metrolink – 87% (2018 – 89%)

Stagecoach Supertram – 96% (2018 – 97%)

When comparing these two overall percentages it should be noted that the periods of review were slightly different with the 2018 survey taking place earlier in the autumn, whether that has any bearing on how people perceive things is open to interpretation.

As is usually the case for any survey which includes Manchester Metrolink, the rating for this system is lower and that can probably be explained by the far more complex nature of the network with many more lines radiating out of the city centre to other areas. The complexity does often lead to more disruption as one delay on one line can soon lead to problems for the other lines. But then Supertram does also have four lines, admittedly probably not on as complex a network, and has a significantly higher rating so maybe that can’t be used as a full excuse after all!

The TPS does also give a line-by-line look at all the questions and for Metrolink this has shown large decreases in the overall satisfaction for the Bury line (down to 84%) and the Rochdale line (down to 82% and the lowest of all lines for satisfaction). It would appear that those questioned in the City Zone, however, were generally satisfied as that rating is up at 94% but then with all lines running through the city which equals a more frequent service that can probably help to explain that.

In Sheffield the Blue and Purple routes are combined and give a rating of 95%, with the Tram-Train falling to 94% whilst the Yellow route passengers 100% satisfied according to this survey.

The survey isn’t just about the overall satisfaction with several different categories looked at, so many in fact that there just isn’t the time or space to look at all of them! Key categories include value for money (down at 59% for Metrolink, although this is in the same ball park as the previous year, and 76% for Supertram, again similar to 2018) and punctuality (85% for Metrolink, a decrease, and 89% for Supertram, similar to the previous year).

On Metrolink ways to improve the service mentioned by those questioned related to better seating and capacity on board the trams. With the drastic fall in passenger numbers since the COVID-19 pandemic started to be felt in full it would be interesting to see what those questioned now think about capacity on board the trams.

With tram systems across the country seeing a major fall in passenger numbers as a result of the Coronavirus now may be an ideal time for operators to take note of these passenger opinions and see how they can improve things to try and entice more people to travel once some sense of normality does return.

* For those so inclined you can read all the findings of the TPS on the Transport Focus website (this page provides links to download two separate reports, one for each system)


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