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Rail Passengers Lay into First Great Western

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3:20pm 18th August 2014

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'Cattle truck conditions' and 'appalling customer service.'

South-west rail passengers lay into First Great Western.

The train company's come bottom in a Which? customer survey - scoring just forty nine percent.

You can read the full report here

Bosses admit they 'must do more to win the trust of our customers' and the storms meant 'services fell short of the standards expected'.

Chris Irwin from Travelwatch South West told Pirate FM:" They're trying to run a railway, run a train service, day in day out at a time when the railway on which those trains are running is largely being rebuilt. It makes it very difficult to deliver a service when you're actually building the railway underneath the train. Things do go wrong, you do get delays.

"I think it requires a very special kind of management to help people through that sort of inconvenience, that sort of disruption, that sort of breach of trust. It probably means that FGW need to spend rather more money on having helpful people on stations, on trains and so on. Not to crack down on limited problems about people travelling on the wrong train just outside the right time but to help people get through to make contact with the people who might be meeting them or whatever, providing mobile phone access and the like. Just thinking through "What do we need to do to make passengers feel really satisfied."

In a statement First Great Western said: "We know we must do more to win the trust of our customers. Consistently delivering punctual, reliable trains is the key to building trust and credibility - the more continuous a standard is delivered the more credible it becomes.

"The provision of timely services was impacted by severe weather conditions in the survey period in January 2014, compounded by Network Rail infrastructure challenges. With our monthly performance falling drastically during these times, we realise that our ability to deliver services fell short of the standards expected from our customers."

It added its response to the Which? Survey Four points:

Crowding, punctuality, tickets

We are increasing standard class capacity on all our high speed trains by converting some First Class a carriages (first converted carriage came into passenger service end July). This will create almost 3,000 more standard class seats a day for customers across the network and deliver nearly 16% more standards class accommodation. This builds on the provision of 4,500 extra seats delivered in 2012 by converting former buffet cars, and the declassification of first class on many of our London Thames Valley trains in October 2013.

Recently there have been a number of infrastructure problems with points and signals and disappointingly we have also had some fleet issues too. Together FGW and Network Rail have developed a Thames Valley Performance plan; this includes a number of joint actions including seconding of staff and in-depth reviews of recurring problems.

Last year our fares were kept in line with inflation at 3.1%. The money raised by Government through fares ensures investment in more trains, better stations and faster services, however anything that reduces the cost of price rises is good news for customers and the industry as a whole. FGW is committed to continuing to invest in the railway, making the improvements that we know our customers want. An example of this investment can be seen in the £7.5 billion electrification work of the Great Western mainline and in a fleet of new Intercity Express trains.

Online feedback and social media

We respond to all feedback sent to us and if it regards punctuality/crowding we detail the complex challenges we face and the initiatives under way to improve the service provided. There is a web form on the website where passengers can submit comments/observations etc. It is housed on the contact us page on our website.

Our social media feeds openly advertise the times that they are open, and this is reiterated on our website in the 'about us' section. The twitter feed is operated 24/7 and our Facebook page from 9am to 10pm. During period 4 (July to Aug) we received 21,500 tweets.

All complaints are dealt with as promptly as we are able, and should a complaint be unable to dealt with by the limitations of social media it is forwarded to our customer services team to respond.

Ticket machines/access to ticket

There are now more ways than ever to purchase to purchase rail tickets - through ticket offices, ticket vending machines, by telephone or through our website.

Last year we launched a mobile application, which allows customers to purchase tickets on their smart device, phone or tablet. We are currently working to enhance the number of ticket types and routes available through this app.

3:20pm 18th August 2014

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