Users of public transport will benefit from new European guidelines encouraging operators to establish a better service for customers.
The guidelines, published by the British Standards Institution (BSI), specify requirements for the definition, targeting and measurement of service quality in public passenger transport.
The European Standard BS EN 13816 is applicable to all passenger transport operators, including airlines, trains, underground trains, buses and even taxis.
The standard was initiated by the European Parliament, which wants consistent standards of public transport across Europe. It enables, for the first time, a like-for-like comparison between public transport operators.
To comply with the standard, public transport firms need to identify service quality targets from a range of 104 criteria listed in the standard, adopt the chosen targets in their own quality specification, and publish their specification to give it public visibility.
The quality criteria cover areas such as availability and accessibility of transport services as well as accuracy of information on service times. Other criteria include customer care and passenger comfort, the security of passengers, and managing the environmental impacts of the service being provided.
To produce the standard, BSI co-ordinated a range of organizations involved in the transport industry, including operators, consumer groups and government.
BSI's director of standards, David Lazenby, said: "The new guidelines are designed to promote a quality approach to public transport, focusing on the way that intelligent operators satisfy customers' needs and expectations, and show leadership in service provision. We also expect to see commercial pressures to comply with the standard, since organizations issuing licences and franchises to service providers will ask for evidence that they comply.
"In adopting BS EN 13816, the industry will be able to translate customers' expectations and perceptions of quality into viable, measurable, and manageable parameters," Mr Lazenby added.
London Transport's director of transport strategy, Richard Smith, said: "We welcome the idea of these new guidelines which will be good news for London commuters and other users of the city's transport network. They will enable customers to compare the service quality claims of different suppliers against a set of common benchmarks."
The chairman of the London Regional Passengers Committee, Sir Alan Greengross, said: "Driving up service quality is essential if the bus and rail industries are to win and keep the extra passengers they need to ensure a successful future. This standard will enable the best operators to prove that they're the best; and only the best is good enough for London's passengers."
Airport operator BAA Heathrow's managing director Roger Cato, said: "As a customer-focused company, BAA Heathrow welcomes this positive move to promote a structured approach to improving public transport. With one common aim, the new BSI guidelines proposed will help ensure customer needs and expectations are realised."
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