BR must discount season tickets for failing targets

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The Independent Online
SEASON TICKET holders on 11 British Rail lines across the country will be entitled to discounts under the terms of the Passenger's Charter because of poor reliability or punctuality, according to figures for the first year the scheme has been in operation.

All lines were set targets by the Department of Transport following discussions with BR on the Charter, which came into effect earlier this year. For InterCity and Regional Railways, the targets are the same for all lines, but for Network SouthEast they differ according to how well the line has performed in the past.

Discounts of 5 per cent on each target - punctuality and reliability - are available for season ticket holders, both monthly and annually, when they renew their tickets. However, it is not until lines fail to meet their punctuality targets by 3 per cent or more, or reliability targets by 1 per cent or more, that commuters qualify for discounts and they will lose them as soon as the line meets the discount threshold.

The targets only take into account events within BR's control, such as staff problems, signalling breakdowns, leaves on the line and accidents. But major terrorist alerts or very severe weather conditions, such as deep snow, are excluded. The punctuality targets relate to the published timetable whereas, in fact, BR operates to an unpublished timetable which usually allows a few extra minutes for each journey.

Most of the poor performing lines were on InterCity and Regional Railways, with only one on Network SouthEast. On InterCity, only one out of the seven lines managed to reach the 90 per cent punctuality target, while three failed the reliability test.

On Regional Railways, eight out of 24 lines failed the punctuality test and 11 failed on reliability. On Network SouthEast, where many of the targets are much lower, four out of 15 lines failed on punctuality and three on reliability. The targets for next year are being revised and will be issued before the end of the year.

BR wants to be allowed to reduce targets on some poor performing lines, like Network SouthEast's Kent Coast line, where many delays are being caused by Channel tunnel-related work, but the Department of Transport is only allowing it to revise targets upwards. The figures are based on the first 48 weeks of 1992 to ensure that it can calculate the discounts in time to pay them when fares rise on 3 January. Many discounts on poorer performing lines where rises have been kept down will wipe out the increase or even lead to a slight reduction for some commuters.

Chris Green, managing director of InterCity, said: 'The results for 1992 show that it is not a level playing field, with some route teams working without the benefit of investment.'

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