Rail firm to cut peak-time trains

A RAIL company that has been penalised for cancelling too many trains is considering cutting a tenth of its timetable - the only way it says it can ensure a reliable service.

Chiltern Railways wants to drop up to 10 trains from its daily peak-time schedule. It blamed the lack of capacity on the rail network and said that Railtrack needed to tackle the bottlenecks in the system. Although it is not the first time a train company has cut its timetable, the move follows a warning by Railtrack that services would have to be reduced if trains were to have any hope of running on time.

By using a less ambitious timetable, Chiltern says it will be more likely to run a full service and on time. The company, which runs services between Marylebone in London and Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Birmingham, was ordered to carry out pounds 2.5m of improvements in the summer after breaking its franchise agreement by cancelling trains. The number of trains running late had risen to 13 per cent from 5 per cent.

Adrian Shooter, the managing director of Chiltern Railways, said: "We are getting a grip on our performance." Mr Shooter said Railtrack was partly to blame for selling too many train "paths" on the network and he singled out freight trains for causing delays, especially on single- track lines.

All train companies were last week called in for talks with John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, after official figures showed their performance had deteriorated sharply.

n The regional rail company Merseyrail Electrics will be hit by three one-day strikes in the next month in a dispute over pay and conditions.