Darling says rail cuts will improve reliability

Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, declared yesterday that cuts in train services were needed to ensure Britain had "a timetable that actually works".

Mr Darling claimed that there were "many aspects of the transport system which are getting better" after he was challenged in the Commons over The Independent's front page story on the issue yesterday.

He was also forced to deny claims from the Tories that he was now a "part-time" Secretary of State for Transport because of his extra duties as Scottish Secretary since the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

The Strategic Rail Authority admitted on Monday that overall train punctuality had worsened in the past year and passenger complaints had risen. Some trains would be cut in an effort to improve the overall service while above-inflation fare rises were expected soon.

But Mr Darling defended the changes during Transport Questions, claiming a reduction in the number of services on Virgin's Cross Country route had seen reliability rise from 67 per cent to 78 per cent in three weeks.

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