'It's not how much they spend, but how it's run'

The news that 16 per cent of trains are late now, compared with 19 per cent last year, was hardly greeted with joy at London Bridge station yesterday afternoon.

Helen Gibson, 30, a project manager for PricewaterhouseCoopers, who commutes from Reading to Paddington, said: "It's supposed to be a 25-minute journey but it ends up being more like 40.

"Even when the train is on time you get delays at other stations which just make you later. The train is always about 10 or 15 minutes late. I haven't seen an improvement this year."

In the national timekeeping table, South West Trains finished bottom with only 69 per cent of its trains on time.

"It does depend which company you use,'' said Bernard Lawrence, 47, an architect who travels by train across London. "Stansted Express should be called something else. It's never on time. South West Trains often run behind out of Waterloo. I really can't say I've noticed a difference this year.'' He added: "For me, apart from the lateness of the trains, it's a fact you can never get a seat. The new trains seem to have even less room than the old ones.''

Richard Johns, 50, a businessman, blamed the management: "It's not how much money they spend, it's the way they run them."

However it was not all bad news for the rail industry. "I always get a seat because I travel early in the morning,'' Kay Richardson, 25, a student nurse, said. "I travel to Romford, Essex, from my home in Forest Hill. The trains from London can be excellent. I also get a discount because I'm a student, so I can't say I'm not getting a good deal."

Mohammed Kalme, 28, a factory worker originally from Iraq, who commutes from Woolwich to Croydon, said: "My trains are always on time. I've been here for five years and I can assure you that the trains here are excellent. They're on time and I always get a seat. Much better than where I come from.''

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