Trainspotting: Calming Commute or Excruciating Excursion

Between Transport for London (TfL) investing £80m into the city’s ‘Boris Bikes’ upgrade, ongoing strikes and social media blunders from Southern Rail and Virgin Train’s rivalry with Aston Villa this week our news feeds have been filled with updates from UK transport services.

We compared these three companies with Translink, the transport company which serves Northern Ireland, to see whose customers were the happiest with the service that was being provided.



Ongoing strike action has had a negative impact on Southern Rail this week, resulting in a low Adorescore.  This certainly has not been helped by a post on Twitter encouraging Southern Rail customers to call out their workers’ union to “tell them how rail strikes make you feel”.  This backfired for Southern Rail, with the public coming out overwhelmingly pro-union and in support of the workers’ right to strike.  Virgin trains struck social media gold this week when they poked fun at Aston Villa’s manager Roberto Di Matteo being sacked this week, the club’s fifth boss since February 2015.

Joy Index


The Joy Index assesses the levels of joy or amusement which is expressed toward a brand.

The Virgin Trains are leading on the joy index, with topics relating to the ‘great’ staff and “good supplies” driving joy to the brand.  As with their Adorescore, Southern Rail trails behind the group, with discussions of the strikes and yesterdays talks with the union driving grief in mentions of the brand.  Focusing outbound messaging on events such as Poetry Day could lead to an increase in joy felt as this topic was dominated by joy and ecstasy.

Trust Index


The Trust Index highlights the levels of trust that customers have in a brand.

Virgin take the title in the trust index, with high levels of admiration being expressed toward the company – especially in the area of staff, help and having a “lovely” experience.  If Translink want to close in on Virgin Trains, they should focus on community engagement posts on Facebook.  Posts related to their work with local schools on early age safety contain high levels of trust despite few mentions.

Southern Rail fails to inspire trust in their customers, with mentions containing a large amount of loathing. Unsurprisingly this lack of trust stems from the strikes, delays and the “disgraceful” service which customers feel is being provided by the company.

Attention Index


Amazement is associated with feelings of surprise or ‘wow’ felt toward a brand, while vigilance is more closely related to sustained hype and anticipation related to a company.

All of the companies analysed tended toward the vigilance side of the attention scale.  Virgin again come out as an industry role model among this bunch.  This heightened interest stems from positive mentions of the staff and service, with customers praising the service for running on time despite other company’s delays.

To avoid slipping into last place on this index TfL could promote transport as an important part of tourism in London.  Mentions of #visitLondon are dominated by interest and vigilance, so further promoting this would drive high levels of interest to TfL.

Anger Index


On this index rage is associated with feelings of discomfort which the consumer is empowered to take action against.  Terror is related to feelings of insignificance and powerlessness to control a situation and the discomfort felt.  A brand should aim to be at the centre of this scale.

Virgin are the only brand which tend toward terror but despite this they are performing better than the other brands as they are closer to the centre (neutral).

Southern Rail’s strikes are causing the most rage of the mentions that we analysed, with talks yesterday resulting in a set of proposals being rejected by the union.  Despite the rage felt, customers are largely expressing solidarity with the workers.

Translink are performing best on the rage side of the scale, tending only slightly toward anger.  City bound services, train faults and length of waits are driving the most rage to the brand, so these issues should be addressed to prevent the company sliding further toward rage.

The indexes show the true impact of a social media blunder in response to a disruptive issue, putting Southern Rail at the bottom rank of our analysis.  Virgin have proved that good customer service goes a long way by winning in a landslide on all indexes.

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