Train punctuality rates fall

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The Independent Online

Train punctuality dipped in the first part of autumn this year, with the two main London to Scotland rail companies having the poorest trains-on-time record.

Overall, the passenger train companies ran 91.5 per cent of trains on time in the period September 18 to October 15 2011, compared with a figure of 92.8 per cent in the same period last year.

From Network Rail (NR), the figures showed that the East Coast company ran only 84.1% of trains on time in early autumn this year compared with 89.2 per cent in the same period of 2010.

The other main London to Scotland company - Virgin Trains - operated only 84.5% of trains on time on the West Coast Main Line in early autumn 2011, compared with 91.5 per cent in the same period last year.

NR said East Coast's performance was hampered by a number of infrastructure failures.

These included a signal failure at King's Cross in London on September 26, a fire on the Nene River Bridge at Peterborough in Cambridgeshire on October 2 and damage to overhead line equipment caused by trespass and vandalism between Loversall Carr Junction and Retford in Nottinghamshire on October 5.

The other companies which failed to run at least 90% of trains on time in early autumn 2011 were CrossCountry, First Capital Connect, First Great Western, London Midland, Northern Rail and Southern.

Best-performing company in early autumn 2011 was London Overground which ran 96.9 per cent of trains on time and was one of only three companies with a better record than during early autumn last year.

In the last part of this month - for which figures will be released later - rail commuters have suffered some rush-hour delays, including some caused by cable theft and some down to late-running engineering works.

In January, regulated rail fares - which include season tickets - will be rising by an average of 8 per cent.

David Sidebottom, director of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Punctual trains are among passengers' top priorities for improvement and a key driver of passenger satisfaction, so it's disappointing to see this dip in train performance.

"It's essential that Network Rail and train companies re-double efforts to make sure that poor performance is spotted, understood and addressed."

A spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said: "Train companies have worked hard with the rest of the industry to raise overall levels of punctuality and reliability in recent years.

"But we're not complacent and we understand the need to keep on focusing our efforts to provide passengers with services that continue to improve."