Posted 19th November 2014 | 9 Comments

Punctuality continues to worsen

PUNCTUALITY across Britain’s rail network has continued to decline – with only 84.6 per cent of trains within 5 or 10 minutes of right time in the past month, and only 55.4 per cent ‘on time’.

c2c Rail had the best punctuality in the four weeks ending 8 November, with 96.9 per cent of its trains arriving within 5 minutes of schedule – while Southern had the poorest , with 78.7 per cent of its services arriving within 5 minutes of right time.

Over the whole network, 84.6 per cent of trains were within the ‘public performance measure’ (PPM, based on 5 minutes within schedule for commuter and regional services, or 10 minutes for long-distance services) – down from 86.2 per cent in the same four-week period in 2013.

On the major trunk routes, East Midlands Trains recorded 86.8 per cent PPM (down from 88.8 per cent last year); First Great Western was at 83.9 per cent (down only 0.1 per cent); East Coast recorded 82.7 per cent (up from 77.1 per cent a year ago); and Virgin Trains’ performance was 81.2 per cent (down from 85.1 per cent in period 8 last year).

When it came to ‘right time’ arrivals, Chiltern was top last month with 84.3 per cent on time (up from 83.1 per cent in 2013), while CrossCountry was worst at 29.2 per cent (36.4 per cent last year).

On the major trunk routes, East Midlands Trans had 57.6 per cent of arrivals on time (well down from 66.9 per cent a year ago); First Great Western recorded 58.5 per cent on time (down from 61 per cent); East Coast had 45.7 per cent right time arrivals (up from 42 per cent in 2013); and Virgin Trains recorded 44.1 per cent of its trains ‘on time’ (down from 45.2 per cent in last year’s period 8).

And on the other, non-London, major inter-city route, First Transpenine Express took a big hit this year – PPM fell from 88.4 per cent in 2013 to 80.5 per cent per cent last month, while right time punctuality (51.8 per cent in 2013) slumped to 33.9 per cent in the four weeks to 8 November.

After 2002-03, when records started in their current form, overall performance across the rail network improved steadily for eight years, from less than 80 per cent PPM until it surpassed 90 per cent in 2010-11, but in the past two years it slowly, but steadily, declined to a moving annual average of 89.2 per cent at present.

Right time punctually – below 50 per cent in 2002-03 – rose above 70 per cent in 2010-11, but it has declined since then to stand at 64.4 per cent in the four weeks to 8 November.

Network Rail does not show the comparative number of trains operated each month. But the number has risen substantially since 2002-03, while overall network capacity has grown little.

Network Rail qualifies its four-weekly performance statistics with the following information:

“Network Rail and the train operators run more trains across Great Britain than are run in most European countries – almost 20 per cent more than in France and 60 per cent more than in Italy.

“Great Britain's 24,000 trains per day is also more than Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Norway combined.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    Not too surprised with the Transpennine figures. The new hourly Liverpool-Newcastle service, welcome though it is, has been a bit disappointing in terms of reliability. It's quite common for the services from Durham - Newcastle to be late.

    Wonder if the remaining Northern Hub improvements will make things any more reliable?

  • james Palma, London

    what causes these delays and why do we never see details?

    is it because the operating companies do not want to upset passengers by saying they cause the delays by not letting people off before trying to get on, or that they hold doors open for others, or that they do not wait for the next train 10 minutes behind?

    these things i see daily on my commute in to work in London.

  • Dave, Durham

    im not surprised TPE have slumped. Too many short trains on the network the track capacity cant cope with. Had TPE been allowed to extend the 185's to 4 car as originally planned there would be 200 seats MORE per hour on the old 4 train timetable than with the current 5 train pattern, and costs would be less. Using trailer cars There is plenty of traction power in the 185's to stretch them to 5 car if necessary but this would curtail the Eco mode and running with isolated engines.

    When will the industry learn? It is not more trains, we need BIGGER trains.

  • jakjaye, leamington spa

    Worse, can it get any? the main reason is the daily catalogue of NotWork Fail is 'Signalling Problems' network wide one wonders where does all the billions paid by the mug taxpayer go? wasnt this one of the main reason for railway privatastion,apart from putting millions in the pockets of the second rate bus operators who have taken over.
    Makes BR look really good though.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    A warm month with very little leaf fall. No flooding either. With the increase in passenger numbers I wonder if the added weight slows the acceleration of trains from stations or signals ? Extra weight certainly slows my car's acceleration down - and raises petrol consumption. Over-running repairs maybe ? Otherwise the figures seem strange.

    (WCML performance has been very poor recently, particularly because of continuing faults affecting signal cables in the Watford area. There have been OLE failures and possession overruns on the Great Eastern, while FTPE has also slumped. The point you and others make about rising demand is entirely justified. We are trying to serve 2014 needs on a system which was trimmed back relentlessly 30 or 40 years ago. Some improvements have been made (redoubling in various places, new chords or loops, etc.), but there is a long way to go. Meanwhile passenger and freight totals keep going up. Quart in pint pot?--Editor.)

  • David Cook, Broadstone, Dorset

    Our railways are over congested, any small incident really does compound further down the tracks at each bottleneck. One of the worst in the SW is Bristol, and the quadrupling of the bank from Bristol TM to Parkway cannot be started soon enough. This bottleneck is one of the many causes of problems for Cross Country, whom I actually feel sorry for, as they run the longest distance trains in the UK, and run through loads of bottlenecks on their journeys. Interesting to note that HS1 Javelin trains have such a high punctuality rate, Southeastern need them to prop up the punctuality rate of the antique network over in that area......

  • Andrew Smith, Inverkeithing

    What factors cause a PPM variance ? Rolling stock unreliability. Track faults , Signalling failures or something else ? Train movements are just a number. Arrival times at the termination point do not take into account arrival variations from schedule at intermediate points.
    Track blocks might be a better measure of network performance. How many track blocks exist in the UK ? How many hours per month are they unavailable due to maintenance, failure, or are occuppied ?
    Electric trains have a better acceleration/decelleration ability, so should have better punctuality performances.

  • Roshan, Leeds

    If we want to run 24,000 trains a day we need the infrastructure for it. It surprises me that punctuality is falling. We were Europe's most improved railway system, and we have to keep that going.

  • Tony Ford, St. Anne's on the Sea

    Its not always the fault of the rail companies - they cannot plan for someone throwing themselves off a bridge in front of a train.