December 20, 2012 7:08 pm

New rail data show scale of late running

Almost 43 per cent of trains were late in the past month, according to figures released on Thursday which, for the first time, identify the year’s worst-performing operators for punctuality.

The report draws on new data the industry has been required by ministers to publish since July, showing which trains arrive within a minute of their scheduled time.

The railway industry and regulator still refer to a metric more widely used across Europe to measure overall performance, which gives commuter services leeway of five minutes, and long-distance operators a 10-minute cushion. Under those measures, nine out of 10 trains arrive on time.

Nevertheless, the more stringent measurement is much closer to travellers’ experience and has been welcomed by passenger groups.

It shows that in the past month, 57 per cent of the 24,000 services each day on the British network arrived on time – or an annual average of 69 per cent. Network Rail said recent performance had been hampered by severe weather.

Although industry-wide data have been available since July, the new figures give a breakdown of annual performance by operator.

The worst was CrossCountry trains, operated by Arriva, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, which runs long-distance services out of Birmingham to Aberdeen and Penzance. Forty-nine per cent of its services were on time. Virgin Trains was the worst inter-city performer, with its West Coast services from London to Glasgow on time only 54 per cent of the time.

Industry executives point out that longer-distance operators are more likely to suffer delays than commuter operators simply because of the longer journeys involved. FirstGroup had the best performance on inter-city routes, with its Great Western operation between London and the southwest recording 70 per cent of services on time.

The Institute of Directors hit out at Network Rail over poor performance. Corin Taylor, the institute’s senior economic adviser, said: “Yet again, Network Rail have failed to deliver a good service for passengers who pay large amounts for their service.

“Business relies on prompt trains to get staff to work and to meetings on time. It is frustrating for those working hard to get the economy growing to be let down by a key connecting service.”

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