Most of the UK’s railway track is managed by Network Rail, which in 2016 had a network of 15,799 kilometres (9,817 mi) of railway line spanning across the UK.

In 2016, there were 1.718 billion journeys on the National Rail network* Unlike a number of other countries, rail travel in the United Kingdom has seen passenger numbers reach their highest ever level*. This growth is partly attributed to a shift away from private motoring due to growing road congestion and increasing petrol prices, but also to an overall increase in affluence.

The UK’s train operators come under constant scrutiny from the British public where overcrowding, fare increases, strike action, disputes, frequent delays and cancellations to services are all too common.

In the face of this disruption, commuters in the UK turn to social media and are no strangers to using Twitter to vent their frustrations towards train operators.

The August Bank Holiday is a time for getting out of the house and vacationing. Many people travel all over the UK, and to Europe, or beyond during this time. Many others vacation more locally, relying on public transport to head off to local parks, beaches, nature reserves, and attractions that usually are only visited by tourists.

It is a very busy period as far as traffic is concerned. So for our sixteenth edition of the HelpHandles Insight Series we decided to take a close look at how the Top 5 Train Operators on our UK Transport Index performed for customer service on Twitter over the busy August Bank holiday weekend from Friday 25th August to Bank Holiday Monday 28th August 2017.

UK Train Operators Social Customer Service Performance

Friday 25th August to Bank Holiday Monday 28th August 2017.

Best Overall Performers

GWRHelp (Great Western Rail) came out on top as the best overall train operator for customer service on Twitter over the August Bank Holiday weekend with the best aggregate score* across inbound volume, response rate, responses under 30 mins and sentiment amongst customers.

*Accounts are programmatically scored out of 100 on our performance index across 4 metrics. Inbound mention volumes (25%), Response Rate (25%), Responses under 30 mins (25%) and Sentiment (25%). All metrics are available and updated every hour on HelpHandles.com

1st: GWR Help (Great Western Rail)
2nd: East Midlands Trains
3rd: Virgin Trains
4th: Arriva Trains Wales
5th: Southeastern

Below is the break down on how each train operator performed for customer service on Twitter.

First Response Time

First responses from all 5 train operators were exceptional over the bank holiday weekend, with Arriva Trains Wales coming in with the fastest overall first response time of just 3mins and Southeastern coming last with a still admirable 18min first response on Twitter.

Arriva Trains Wales: 3min
Virgin Trains: 4mins
East Midlands Trains: 9mins
GWR Help: 11mins
Southeastern: 18mins

Average Response Time

Similarly all operators performed well on average Response with Arriva Trains Wales maintaining a fast 3 min average response, and Southeastern maintaining a 14 min average response time.

Arriva Trains Wales: 3min
Virgin Trains: 4mins
East Midlands Trains: 8mins
GWR Help: 10mins
Southeastern: 14mins

Inbound Volume

Virgin Trains received the most public mentions over the bank holiday period with 4,000 mentions in total to their help handle with both GWRHelp and Southeastern coming in 2nd both exceeding over 1,500+ mentions each….

Virgin Trains: 4,000 mentions
GWR Help: 1722 mentions
Southeastern: 1509 mentions
Arriva Trains Wales: 813 mentions
East Midlands Trains: 732 mentions

Response Rate

East Midlands Trains were the most responsive over the bank holiday responding to 63% of inbound mentions on Twitter, closley followed by GWR with 58% of mentions, Southeastern with 52% of mentions and Arriva with 50% of mentions. Virgin Trains were the least responsive with 33% of mentions responded to.

East Midlands Trains: 63%
GWR Help: 58%
Southeastern: 52%
Arriva Trains Wales: 50%
Virgin Trains: 33%

Responses under 30mins

All 5 train operators performed well for quick and timely responses to customers, all responding to customers within 30mins….

Arriva Trains Wales: 99%
GWR Help: 98%
Virgin Trains: 98%
East Midlands Trains: 97%
Southeastern: 97%

Sentiment

The bank holiday weekend is a testing and very busy time for both customers and those offering public transport services, despite this all train operators did well and maintained a positive sentiment score over the bank holiday period with East Midlands leading the way, followed by GWR and Virgin Trains.

East Midlands Trains: +8
GWR Help: +6
Virgin Trains: +6
Arriva Trains Wales: +4
Southeastern: +3

Conclusion

Train operators face many challenges with customer satisfaction and social media is proving to be an essential tool for operators to keep customers informed in real time on status updates, delays, and disruptions to journeys.

In addition we are now starting to see some operators improve in-carriage services with free movies, and entertainment, and some even going as far as offering passengers free bags of candy to sweeten the journey.

However, while many operators publish their own operational performance and customer satisfaction data, there is still more opportunity to be fully transparent with customers.

We regularly see innovation within the airline industry with security wait times being displayed on dashboards in airports, and some social media teams publishing response times on their own Twitter accounts.

As the general feeling towards rail operators in the UK continues to be challenging due to rising fares, overcrowding and disputes, now is the time for the rail operators to improve overall customer experience, invest in loyalty programmes and become more transparent through real time updates on journey times, delays and even social media responsiveness over channels like Twitter.