TfL yesterday published the latest customer satisfaction survey for the Thames Cable Car, this time covering April–June 2013 and based on 653 face-to-face interviews with a “random sample of users as they exited the terminals”.
In his report to next week’s TfL board meeting, Transport Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy cites the poll as evidence of widespread customer satisfaction, telling board members that:
“Customer satisfaction with EAL remains high with passengers giving it a score of 93 out of 100 in a survey undertaken in Quarter 1.”
And it’s true that the mean score is indeed 93 out of 100 but that headline figure masks a number of less impressive stats.
Absent from Sir Peter’s report seems to be any mention of the survey’s finding that of those polled, 76% were using the cable car for the first time and only 37% had any intention of revisiting in the next 6 months.
Included in this figure are 7% who thought they might return within a week and 3% who said they might go back within a fortnight.
The number who might go back sometime in the next 7-12 months is 16% and when asked whether they’d return, a whopping 43% answered: “Maybe in the future\Don’t know”.
TfL’s pollsters have helpfully broken out the figures for first time use and likelihood to return among Londoners.
Of these 70% were first time users and 49% said they might return within the next six months, but just 9% thought they’d return within a week and 3% within a fortnight. 34% had no plans to return.
Given that some people will say nice things to kind people with a clip board, the numbers actually planning to return anytime soon could be much lower.
Value for money continues to be the worse performing metric of all those polled:
TfL remain desperate to spin the cable car as a success, but with passenger numbers below expectations and regular user numbers remaining in single digits, it’s clear they have a long way to go before it’s more than an occasional leisure experience.
When the cable car first opened TfL and Team Boris were full of confidence that Londoners would soon be queuing in their droves to commute above the Thames.
Yet the number of commuters captured by this poll was just 17.
One of the reasons the scheme polls so well is that few people use it, unlike busy trains, buses and Tubes you can normally walk onto a cabin within a wait. But what happens if TfL’s efforts to increase ridership succeeds?
The poll’s introduction states:
“Although satisfaction is still high, it has declined for some aspects in Q1, reflecting the higher passenger numbers in Q1 compared to Q4. In particular, scores for Crowding (terminal and cabin), Queuing and Terminal safety are lower this quarter but still remain in the mid-90’s.”
In short, the busier the cable car gets, the less satisfied people are with it.
TfL could find itself faced with the choice between a busier cable car which no-one enjoys queuing for, or a seldom used tourist attraction with high satisfaction rates.