Summer period showed 'alarming rise' in late trains, says watchdog

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Train punctuality deteriorated at an "alarming" rate this summer with nearly every rail line hit by more delays.

Train punctuality deteriorated at an "alarming" rate this summer with nearly every rail line hit by more delays.

Fewer trains ran on time on routes operated by 21 of the 25 passenger train companies, figures released by the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority yesterday show.

The biggest slump in performance was seen on the London to Edinburgh line operated by Great North Eastern Railways (GNER). Punctuality of trains operated by the company - expected to retain its franchise in an announcement due within the next few weeks - was 9 percentage points worse. In the period June to September some 77.2 per cent of GNER services arrived on time, compared with 86.5 per cent in the same period the previous year.

North Western Trains had a 7 point fall in punctuality, while Virgin CrossCountry and Anglia's InterCity services were both down 6 points.

The three companies to improve were Cardiff Railway (up by 5 points), Gatwick Express (up 2 points) and the Isle of Wight Island Line (up 1 point). Punctuality on Wales and West remained unchanged.

Stewart Francis, chairman of the Rail Passengers' Council, conceded that more trains were running with additional passengers. But he added: "The time has come when this substantial and severe slide in performance must stop. The train companies must draw a line under these figures."

The data comes after statistics published last month showed that 19 out of the 25 companies had recorded a worse performance.

Mr Francis said: "These alarming figures confirm thedownward trend in rail performance. Why have some train operators run fewer trains and yet performance is still poor? These are the summer months that are being reported on, what will happen this autumn? What actions are individual train operators taking to alleviate these problems? Passengers want to know when things are going to improve."

A spokesman for GNER said there were nine "dramatic events" in August that explained the sharp deterioration in performance, including "thunderbolts, flooding, landslides, fires and security alerts".

Elizabeth Haywood, of the Association of Train Operating Companies, warned passengers that punctuality was not going to improve in the short term. She said ageing infrastructure and rolling stock were the underlying causes of the problems, but additional passengers meant that trains were having to stop longer at stations to pick them up.