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Data released by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) shows 64.7 per cent of UK trains arrived at station stops at ‘on time’ under new punctuality statistics in Q1 of the year ending 2019-20, up 2.5 percentage points on the previous year.
The new measure counts trains as ‘on time’ if they arrive at station stops within one minute of schedule. According to the ORR, the new statistic will help rail providers provide a more reliable service to passengers by pinpointing the issues that cause delays.
Using the more widely-reported public performance measure (PPM) – which registers trains that arrive at their final destination within five or ten minutes of their scheduled time – 87 per cent of services were on time. This was only an increase of 0.2 percentage points on the previous year’s figures.
Furthermore, the proportion of trains classified as cancellations in the period was 2.8 per cent – this measure is a weighted score that counts full cancellations as one and part cancellations as half. More than half of these were down to operators for reasons such as train faults, while 27.8 per cent were caused by Network Rail operations and infrastructure such as track and signalling problems. A further 17.1 per cent were the result of issues such as severe weather and trespassers.
Lyndsey Melbourne, the ORR’s head of information and analysis, said: “We are publishing these new measures of punctuality and reliability to aid transparency of train performance and to help the industry focus on exactly where problems are arising and therefore direct their efforts on finding a solution – so passengers will benefit as solutions are found more quickly and more trains arrive on time.”
'Long way to go'
The latest figures received a mixed response from watchdog Transport Focus, which said there is still work to be done to improve services. Chief executive Anthony Smith commented: “Passengers’ biggest priority for their train service is punctuality – they need to be able to rely on getting to work, home, or crucial appointments at the expected time. Clearly one-third of trains running late is not acceptable.
“Transport Focus welcomes the industry heeding its call for the figures to reflect actual arrival times rather than allowing trains up to ten minutes late to be counted as ‘on time’. This will help rebuild trust in the railway. But proper reporting isn’t enough on its own, so we are pleased to see this renewed focus on driving up punctuality.
“It’s good to see a year-on-year improvement but clearly there is a long way to go. In the meantime, we urge passengers to continue... to claim Delay Repay every time they are delayed.”
The results come as former British Airways chief Keith Williams is preparing his report following a lengthy review of the UK’s railways. Williams recently said he does not believe the government should be in charge of the system and should instead only rule on overall policy and budget decisions.
Passengers suffered one of the worst years for rail delays in 2018 after the introduction of a new timetable brought severe disruption to some routes, particularly in the North and parts of London.
Average rail fares are due to increase by up to 2.8 per cent next year despite repeated calls for ticket prices to be tied to the lower, more widely-used Consumer Prices Index rate of inflation.