Consumer group Which? has revealed that rail passengers lost four million hours to major delays in 2018, with an average of 80 trains each day being delayed by half an hour or more.
Annual data from the Office of Rail and Road also shows that 2018 saw the highest ever level of cancellations, with 241,934 in total, an average of 660 a day. Customers of Govia Thameslink Railway, TransPennine Express and Northern were the worst affected.
The figures highlight the chaos that gripped the UK’s railways in 2018 and are significant in the context of a new timetable change, which was introduced at the start of this week. Last year’s timetable change in May was blamed for a large portion of delays and cancellations.
So far, however, the transition into the new timetable has been relatively smooth. The rail industry had promised to learn from last year’s fiasco and announced that it had stepped up preparations and laid contingency plans in order to prevent disruption. To that end, an industry-wide project management office was set up to monitor each operator’s plans and readiness for the new timetable.
The Rail Delivery Group said that new services were only being introduced if the necessary parts were in place to deliver them effectively, including extra staff and special rapid response teams. More than 1,000 new services a week have been introduced, with hundreds of extra services on South Western Railway.
Rail minister Andrew Jones said that he was ‘very confident’ that the new timetable would be delivered smoothly and efficiently.
Neena Bhati, Head of Campaigns, at Which?, said that introducing a simpler compensation process was crucial in order to boost fragile customer confidence: “The rail industry has fundamentally failed on punctuality and reliability. A vital way the government’s rail review and industry can start to restore faith is by introducing automatic compensation for delays and cancellations so that passengers don’t have to fight to get the money they are owed.”