Annual train punctuality has reached the 90 per cent mark for the first time since records began in 1992, Network Rail (NR) announced today.
A total of 90.6 per cent of trains ran on time in the 12 months ending in March, while the figure for April was a monthly record of 93.5 per cent.
NR's operations and customer service director Robin Gisby said: "Passengers are today experiencing the most punctual train service ever provided on Britain's railways."
Train punctuality dipped sharply at the beginning of this decade after speed restrictions were brought in following the October 2000 Hatfield rail crash.
When NR took over responsibility for rail infrastructure from Railtrack in 2002, punctuality was less than 79 per cent.
Best-performing company in 2008/09 was the London to Tilbury and Southend operator c2c, which achieved a trains-on-time figure of 95.3 per cent. Chiltern and Merseyrail also reached the 95 per cent mark.
Two companies - Virgin Trains and London Midland - did significantly worse in 2008/09 than in 2007/08 due to the disruption caused by the £9 billion upgrade of the West Coast Main Line, which was completed last December.
Virgin's punctuality figure slipped from 86.2 per cent in 2007/08 to 80.0 per cent in 2008/09, while London Midland declined from 88.9 per cent to 86.5 per cent.
The biggest year-on-year improvement was made by First Great Western, whose punctuality rose from 83.1 per cent in 2007/08 to 90.5 per cent in 2008/09.
Mr Gisby praised the hard work of NR staff and train companies in the punctuality improvement.
He said: "But we are far from complacent and realise that passengers still experience some delays, albeit less often than in times past. Our focus in the years ahead will be to drive performance to even higher levels with particular attention given to reducing the number of very late services."
Alec McTavish, director of policy and operations at the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "Delivering the best-ever level of punctuality is a significant achievement by all parts of the rail industry, particularly as we ran an additional one million more timetabled trains last year than British Rail did just before privatisation.
"Looking forward, our priority must now be to narrow the differences in performance across different services and achieve a more consistent delivery across the whole network."
Gerry Doherty, leader of the TSSA transport union, said: "These figures are just spin and poppycock. They do not begin to compare with the old British Rail (BR) figures before privatisation in 1996.
"The old InterCity services regularly reported punctuality figures of 92 per cent and the biggest part of BR, Southern, regularly reported figures of 95 per cent during the early 1990s.
"NR is comparing itself with the worst levels of performance achieved by Railtrack, the little-lamented private rail company that went out of business in 2002.
"It is not comparing itself with BR, a public sector service, that achieved far better results than NR at only a fifth of the cost."
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies