- New research shows family friendly travel across the UK rail network is not due to a lack of ideas or technology, but a lack of implementation and determination
- Merseyrail and LNER come out top, revealing a clear picture of the leaders and laggards across the rail industry.
As many families set off on their travels for the August bank holiday weekend, the second scorecard developed by the Campaign for Family-Friendly Trains reveals the ideas and technology exist to make UK train travel family friendly, but there remains a big gap in putting the ideas into practice.
- In 9 out of 10 categories at least one train operating company managed to gain a top score. This shows that making family friendly travel a reality across the UK rail network is not due to a lack of ideas or technology, but a lack of implementation.
- At the top of the scoreboard (5 out of 10 points) the two operators with the highest score are Merseyrail and LNER. The fact that a long-distance operator (LNER) and a commuter network (Merseyrail) have both taken significant steps towards introducing family-friendly facilities and services illustrates the possibility for all train operating companies to make changes to improve the experience of families with young children.
- Merseyrail has tackled two of the biggest challenges for both families and train operators – dedicated space for unfolded buggies and level boarding from platform to train. Other train operators, especially commuter rail operators, should look to Merseyrail for inspiration and proof that these changes are possible.
- LNER has signed the Family Friendly Pledge never to order a new train or undertake a refurbishment without providing dedicated space for unfolded prams or pushchairs. Other long-distance operators should look to follow LNER’s example in making this important commitment.
- Southeastern was the only company that said Passenger Assist is available for, and advertised to, families travelling with young children. The rail industry should make the bookable and ‘Turn Up And Go’ Passenger Assist service available to parents travelling with young children, particularly solo parents, and ensure the service is consistent across the network and clearly advertised to families.
- Down at the bottom of the pile are seven companies that have failed to respond to the family friendly travel questionnaire two years in a row. These operators are: Chiltern Railways, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, London Northwestern Railway, South Western Railway, and West Midlands Railway. The lack of response suggests these operators are either not interested in the difficulties faced by families with young children travelling along their routes or it is a very low priority.
Leisure travel is still the biggest overall market with the largest share of revenue for the UK railway industry. Yet UK trains have been traditionally designed for business and commuter passengers, not for families with young children in pushchairs. The significant challenges of accessing trains with a pushchair exacerbates social exclusion, but when leisure trips drive rail revenue then the industry can no longer afford to overlook and undervalue the needs of families. There are still many opportunities for train operating companies across the UK to improve their offer to young families.
To read our full report click here.