BR swaps trains for buses to hit targets

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The Independent Online
BRITISH RAIL is cutting trains on a branch line and replacing them with buses while it moves staff on to another route to ensure that it can meet Passenger's Charter targets, writes Christian Wolmar.

The performance by North London Railways on its principal route between Northampton and London has been so poor because of staff shortages that the company risks having to pay discounts to season ticket holders.

The company, one of 25 set up by BR in the run-up to privatisation, is to withdraw its hourly trains from the Bletchley to Bedford route and replace them with coaches for the next six weeks. This will allow the staff to transfer to the Northampton to London service.

The Northampton line, used by 10,000 commuters daily and about 20,000 off- peak users, has targets of 90 per cent for punctuality (trains arriving within 5 minutes of the scheduled time) and 99 per cent reliability (trains not cancelled).

Discounts become payable once annual performance falls below 87 per cent and 98 per cent respectively. In the month to 16 September only 84.7 per cent of the trains were meeting punctuality targets and only 96.4 per cent were actually running.