Private operator fails time test

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Punctuality rates plummeted on the crisis-stricken South West Trains route last month. The private rail operator, run by the bus company Stagecoach, reached 74.1 per cent punctuality for its main line services, against its Passenger's Charter target of 89 per cent.

Its suburban service punctuality figure for February was 85.6 per cent against its charter target of 92 per cent, according to figures supplied by the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising to the pressure group Save Our Railways.

February's reliability figures were also below par on SWT. It cut 39 trains a day from 17 February because of a driver shortage and faces the threat of a pounds 1m fine unless services improve next month.

Main-line reliability was 97.6 per cent, against a charter target of 99 per cent while suburban service reliability was 95.8 per cent compared with the charter target of 99 per cent.