Railway delays worse than two years ago

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The Independent Online
SERIOUS TRAIN delays are increasing, with punctuality poorer on most routes than it was two years ago, government figures out today show.

In the 12 months to the end of July 1999, delays to passenger trains were up 5 per cent on the previous 12 months, and 8.2 per cent up on two years ago.

"Too many train operators are still failing too many of their passengers too often," the Central Rail Users' Consultative Committee (CRUCC) said. The watchdog said the service delivered by nine train companies was worse than it had been before privatisation.

In addition, the latest figures from the Strategic Rail Authority showed Richard Branson's much-criticised Virgin Rail company was still one of the poorest performers.

The figures show that over the last 12 months:

Of 68 routes, 36 performed worse than a year ago on punctuality while 52 were worse than two years ago;

The number of cancellations fell by 16.3 per cent;

Thirty routes improved in punctuality compared with 17 in the previous 12 months;

Improvements in reliability were achieved on 31 routes compared with 27 the year before, while reliability worsened on 23 routes compared with 35 the previous year;

Virgin had the most delays. Virgin's CrossCountry, West Coast Scottish and West Coast North West routes topped the delay list and were among eight on which Passenger Charter discounts were triggered because of unpunctuality;

ScotRail's Highland and Central routes had the least delays;

Silverlink's North London Lines had the most cancellations, while Virgin's West Coast and CrossCountry services had the biggest increase in cancellations.

The nine companies achieving a poorer punctuality performance than before privatisa- tion were: Valley Lines, Central Trains, Chiltern Railways, Island Line, MerseyRail, South West Trains, Thames, Thameslink and West Anglia Great Northern.

David Bertram, chairman of the CRUCC, acknowledged that the 12-month figures masked recent improvements but said: "The improvements that we are seeing are still too few and start from a very low base."

Mike Grant, chief executive of the Strategic Rail Authority, welcomed "the first encouraging signs" in performance, but added: "I look to the operators and Railtrack to follow through with sustained improvement, particularly during the crucial autumn-winter months ahead."