City Trains Reviewed

We’ve surveyed passengers of Australia’s metropolitan rail networks to find out which are on track with service reliability, ticket price, safety and overall customer satisfaction.

* Overall satisfaction is an individual rating and not a combined total of all ratings. Brands with equal overall satisfaction ratings are listed in alphabetical order.
Canstar Blue research finalised in August 2016, published in September 2016.

See Our Ratings Methodology

Award for 2016 City trains

Most Satisfied Customers | Transperth

For the fifth year in a row, Transperth has the most satisfied customers of any Australian metropolitan rail service.

Transperth remains on track with passengers

Millions of Australians rely on our metropolitan rail networks to get to work or school every day, or to take us on adventures at the weekend. In Sydney and Melbourne, where road traffic problems are particularly acute, they provide a vital service in transporting people between different parts of the city in reasonable time, or into central business districts where parking space is at a premium. City trains can provide a cost-effective, reliable and convenient travel solution. But they can also be a nightmare when things don’t go to plan.

Every year, Canstar Blue surveys thousands of rail passengers across the country to find out how they rate their local rail network. From service reliability, journey comfort, safety and ticket prices, Aussies have their say on what’s right and wrong with the trains in their city.

This year’s ratings reflect very well on some rail operators, but not so much with others. For the fifth year in a row, Transperth has been rated highest for overall customer satisfaction with five stars. It also achieved top scores on service reliability, journey comfort, timetable/scheduling, cleanliness (of trains and stations) and its ticketing system. Transperth rated four stars on ticket price and safety.

At the other end of the table, Melbourne’s Metro Trains received three stars for overall satisfaction, in addition to service reliability, journey comfort, timetable/scheduling, safety and cleanliness. It rated just two stars for ticket price and its ticketing system.

The cost of commuting

For some people, tacking the train is something they only do on rare occasions, but for others it’s a fact of everyday life. Our survey found that those who commute to and from work spend an average of the following per week:

  • Brisbane: $46
  • Sydney: $43
  • Adelaide: $38
  • Melbourne: $35
  • Perth: $33

The ratings for ticket price largely reflect these findings, with Brisbane and Melbourne getting two stars, Sydney three stars, and Adelaide and Perth four stars.

Why take the train to work?

The cost of rail travel will naturally depend on how far your commute is – the further you need to travel, the more it will cost you. But is taking the train cheaper than driving to work (factoring in the cost of parking and fuel)? And is it more convenient? It could even be that you have no other option but to take the train.

Commuters in Adelaide are most likely to say taking the train is cheaper than driving to work (64%), our survey found. This compares to 55% in Melbourne, 47% in Sydney, 43% in Brisbane and 42% in Perth.

Adelaide Metro customers are also more likely to say taking the train to work is more convenient (67%), followed by commuters in Sydney (55%), Perth (53%), Melbourne (52%) and Brisbane (49%).

Adelaide commuters are also least likely to say they have no other option but to take the train to work (13%). This compares to 17% in Perth, 25% in Brisbane, 27% in Melbourne and 35% in Sydney.

Service reliability

Service reliability is the greatest driver of rail passenger satisfaction, our research shows. When you’re in a rush to get home at the end of a long day’s work, the last thing you’ll want is an issue that holds you up. The good news is most rail operators appear to be providing the reliability customers demand, with Transperth scoring five stars in this area, and Adelaide Metro, Queensland Rail and Sydney Trains all earning four-star reviews. Metro Trains (Melbourne) was the only service to score three stars in this area.

Timetable/scheduling

Knowing you can set your watch by the train timetable is a big help, especially if you commute to and from work every day. But first, you need your local network to deliver a comprehensive service schedule that doesn’t leave you stood on a platform with hours to wait until the next train turns up. Transperth rated five stars in this area, with Sydney Trains, Queensland Rail and Adelaide Metro scoring four stars. Metro Trains (Melbourne) got three stars.

Delays

Most reasonable people will be able to accept that, from time to time, delays will happen. However, it’s when delays become the norm rather than the exception that frustrations will really grow and overcrowding is likely to become more of an issue. Unfortunately our survey found that delays are common, in some cities more than others. The number of passengers who often experience delays is as follows:

  • Perth: 15%
  • Brisbane: 26%
  • Adelaide: 33%
  • Sydney: 40%
  • Melbourne: 53%

Overcrowding

Overcrowding on public transport is a fact of life when you live in a big city, but some areas will suffer more than others. The following shows the number of survey respondents in each city who often experience overcrowding on trains:

  • Adelaide: 36%
  • Brisbane: 45%
  • Perth: 51%
  • Sydney: 62%
  • Melbourne: 70%

Journey comfort

Journey comfort is closely related to overcrowding – if you can’t find a seat on a train, you’ll probably be uncomfortable. Therefore the ratings for trip comfort reflect the above findings, with Melbourne’s Metro Trains scoring three stars in this area. Only Transperth got a five-star rating, with Sydney Trains, Queensland Rail and Adelaide Metro all receiving four stars.

Safety

No one should ever be made to feel unsafe when they catch the train, whether it’s during peak time or late at night. Unfortunately though, we don’t live in a perfect well, and often rely on security staff to keep the peace when some people would rather break it. The good news is that, during the day at least, the vast majority of rail passengers do feel safe on their respective city’s network. The same can’t be said for night time travel, however. Our survey found that travellers in Sydney (46%) are most likely to feel safe at night, followed by Brisbane (43%), Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth (all 42%).

Queensland Rail was the only network to earn a five-star rating on safety, with Transperth, Sydney Trains and Adelaide Metro receiving four stars. Metro Trains (Melbourne) got three stars.

Cleanliness of trains and stations

Having clean and tidy stations shouldn’t be too much to ask, but again we don’t live in a perfect world. Transperth achieved a five-star rating in this area, with Sydney trains, Queensland Rail and Adelaide Metro all receiving four stars. Metro Trains (Melbourne) scored three stars.

Ticketing system

A functional and reliable ticketing system is crucial to both the rail operator and passengers. This includes everything from buying a paper ticket to using ticket machines and the actual system that allows you to touch on and off of public transport properly. Things don’t always work as well as we would like and modern ticketing systems are prone to the odd meltdown. Transperth was again the only network to score five stars, followed by Adelaide Metro with four stars, Queensland Rail and Sydney Trains with three stars, and Metro Trains (Melbourne) with two stars.

Frequently asked questions

Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 6,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have used a domestic metropolitan rail service in the last six months – in this case, 3,495 people.

Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.

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