Rail punctuality hits 12-year low

21st Sep 2018

New figures show that rail punctuality in the UK is the worst it has been for 12 years. In the 12 months up until August 14% of trains were late, the highest levels of delays since 2006, when the figure was 14.2%. 

The figures, which were published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) regulator, follow a period where the rail network has been beset by a range of serious issues in the past few months, including severe adverse weather, new timetable disruption and strikes. 

The so-called Beast from the East brought a sustained period of freezing weather to the UK in February and March which paralysed parts of the network, while the introduction of new timetables on 20 May – the biggest timetable change in a generation – resulted in major disruption for commuters in the north and south-east of England.  

A hefty 46% of train times changed, and routes affected included Northern Trains in the north west of England and Govia Thameslink (GTR) routes into London. GTR and Northern cancelled up to 470 and 310 scheduled trains respectively every weekday.

ORR chairman Prof Stephen Glaister commented: "Good intentions and over-optimism within the rail industry about its ability to recover missed deadlines left no time to uncover and fix problems.

“When problems arose, timetable planners were stretched and train operators were ill-equipped to help passengers.” 

Andrew Haines, the new boss of Network Rail, offered his “sincerest apologies to passengers for letting them down with May's timetable troubles”. 

Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said that the Government and train operators needed to “learn from the mistakes of the recent timetable chaos”, and that future fare hikes would “risk further denting passengers' confidence in the railways”.

A 3.2% increase on season ticket fares was announced in January.  

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said reliability was a "key priority" for commuters currently.

The government has just announced that a major review into the state of the UK’s railways will be undertaken. The “root and branch” review will be headed by Keith Williams, current deputy chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and former boss of British Airways. Any recommended reforms would then be implemented from 2020 onwards. 

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the industry, said that it is “investing billions to ease congestion, reduce delays and minimise disruption”. 

Robert Nisbet, the group's Regional Director, indicated that it would support reforms: “We have been saying that the time is right for root and branch reform of the railway so that it can deliver more for passengers, communities, businesses and taxpayers."

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