Relationships between rail passengers’ satisfaction and service quality: a framework for identifying key service factors

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, place - europe, planning - service quality, planning - surveys, ridership - perceptions


Service quality, Railway service, Structural equation modelling


Increasing the use of public transport is one of the most convenient strategies for alleviating the problems resulting from the excessive use of the private car in most metropolitan areas (congestion, pollution, noise, etc.). In order to improve public transport, developing appropriate tools for measuring and monitoring service quality is necessary. Among the various methods for measuring transit service quality the authors choose to adopt a method based on customer perspective because they retain that customers have the right elements for appropriately judging the used service. Specifically, a structural equation model is formulated to explore the impact of the relationship between global customer satisfaction and service quality attributes, such as safety, cleanliness, main and additional services, information about the service, and personnel, and to verify which of these attributes are key factors of service quality. Services offered by rail operators in Northern Italy are analysed (32 regional lines, 9 suburban lines, 2 express lines). Data collected by a survey addressed to a sample of more than 16,000 passengers are used for calibrating the model. The proposed model can be useful both to transport agencies and planners to analyze the correlation between service quality attributes and identify the most convenient attributes for improving the supplied service. The main findings are that information, cleanliness, and service characteristics like punctuality and frequency of runs have the highest positive effect on service quality. In addition, the authors experimented with the introduction of indicators explaining the endogenous latent variable different from the traditionally used indicators, such as an index based on both satisfaction and importance rates.


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