Rail regulator fines train inquiry service pounds 250,000

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The Independent Online
Train companies will be fined more than pounds 250,000 by the rail regulator after failing to answer nearly 750,000 calls in four weeks from passengers using the telephone inquiry service.

John Swift QC, the rail regulator, instigated the investigation into the service after months of "awful" service. In the four-week period of scrutiny, more than 15 calls in every 100 went unanswered. In the worst seven days, beginning on 17 August, only 75 per cent of calls were answered, despite 30 extra operators being hired by the Association of Train Companies, which administers the National Train Enquiry Service. More than 4.5 million callers tried to get through during the regulator's "enforcement" month. Fewer than 3.8 million had their calls answered.

The first privatised commuter train service in Britain paid out only pounds 100,000 in the last financial year despite randomly cancelling hundreds of trains, according to official figures released yesterday. South West Trains, part of the pounds 1.6bn Stagecoach empire, was paid performance bonuses of more than pounds 1.7m - which almost covered the pounds 1.82m in fines the company forfeited when it cut trains because of a shortage of drivers.

- Randeep Ramesh, Transport Correspondent