The West Midlands' regularly maligned local train operator has been handed a boost with the release of a passenger survey showing big improvements in its services.
Results of the annual independent National Passenger Survey revealed that Central Trains had bettered last year's results in 29 out of the 32 categories.
Overall, 78 per cent of passengers are satisfied or very satisfied with Central's services - three per cent up on autumn 2004 and eight per cent up on autumn 2003.
The main areas in which passenger satisfaction increased included punctuality and reliability, cleanliness, the availability and attitude of staff, as well as information provision.
The company is also pointing to the latest Government figures released at the end of December showing it had its best punctuality results for five years, with 79.1 per cent of trains arriving at their destinations on time - six per cent better than the same period in 2004.
But the survey showed a worsening performance in handling of station inquiries, connections with other public transport, and value for money.
Central Trains managing director Steve Banaghan said: "I am delighted to see an improvement in how passengers regard our service.
"The work done to improve punctuality, reliability and the passengers' experience has paid off.
"At the same time our performance has improved to the point where around eight out of ten of our trains are punctual.
"I am pleased to say that since the beginning of the year operational performance has further improved with 84.4 per cent of Central Trains' services now punctual."
Nationally, fewer than half of rail passengers thought they were getting value for money on the price of their tickets.
Just 45 per cent reckoned ticket prices were satisfactory or good, with 33 per cent believing they were getting unsatisfactory or poor value for money, the National Passenger Survey found.
It was conducted by Passenger Focus, the new name for the Rail Passengers Council, and was based on responses from more than 25,000 of the nation's travellers.
Central's results from the survey followed a Centro report showing more people than ever are travelling by train in the West Midlands.
The growth to 30 million passengers a year was recorded at a time when performance by rail companies was still falling.
"If the levels of service provided by train companies can continue to grow this is certainly good news for the future," said a Centro-PTA spokesman.
"The real key will be to ensure we get the highest level of service when the Central Trains franchise is replaced and that the Government funding is in place to allow this to happen."