The worst train and bus operators in the UK?

CLAIM: Car insurance company Tempcover issued a press release and associated webpage which claimed to “reveal which public transport operators in the UK are doing the best job of getting Britain from A to B”.

CONCLUSION: INACCURATE WITH CONSIDERATION. None of the public transport companies listed covered Northern Ireland, so it was a Great Britain-only analysis. Tempcover have now corrected this error on their website. The exclusion of Northern Ireland’s Translink service could have, at most, shifted other operators up or down the list by one position.

A press release issued to journalists on 16 July was headlined: “REVEALED: The UK’s worse train and bus operators”. It explained:

“Based on over 3.2 million tweets and sentiment data from 31st May 2018 – 1st June 2019, Tempcover can reveal which public transport operators in the UK are doing the best job of getting Britain from A to B.”

The press release went on to list the “UK’s worse bus operators” (sic) and “UK’s Worse Train Operators” (sic) and referred journalists to a webpage with an interactive table that allowed users to filter by English regions, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland:

Tempcover’s research methodology was described at the bottom of its website: “Every known UK bus and train operator’s social media service handles were crawled to analyse for volume, sentiment and emotion.”

The absence of Translink or any of Translink’s sub-brands suggested that Northern Ireland’s public transport corporation was not included in the analysis. From the description of the methodology used to analyse social media sentiment of GB rail and bus operators, FactCheckNI are confident that it could have been extended to include Translink’s social accounts for its services in Northern Ireland.

While accounts with fewer than 100 tweets in the year examined were filtered out, the volume of user tweets mentioning Translink’s service-specific Twitter usernames such as @nirailways, @UlsterbusNI, @GoldlineNI, @TranslinkMetro and @GliderBelfast mean it is very probable that at least some would have qualified for inclusion in the results.

Tempcover’s PR team did not answer our direct question asking whether any Translink social media accounts were included in analysis of millions of transport company-related tweets.

However, they did confirm that “we’ve updated the slight error and changed UK to Great Britain, and the team here are holding off further outreach until that’s refreshed on site – thank you for picking this up …”

The website was corrected and refers to “Britain” rather than “the UK”:

The Daily Mail featured this social media sentiment analysis on its website. The current online article headline correctly refers to “Britain” rather than “the UK”, although the second sentence suggests that “there were 3.2 million tweets about UK travel companies sent by passengers between May 31, 2018 and June 1, 2019”, when these were about Great Britain travel companies.

This is just one example of a common style of report used by companies. They don’t claim to be rigorous academic peer-reviewed research. However, they should still be accurate.

How-to

Having failed to save a copy of the original webpage mentioning “the UK”, we were able to use the Google Cache — via the online Cached View tool — to capture the original version so we could show the correction in this article. To learn more about this service, please read our how-to guide.

Image: Photo by Arne9001 used by license Dreamstime.com

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