Rail misery again - but train operator praised

HUNDREDS of commuters faced rush hour chaos yesterday - the same day as train operator National Express East Anglia was praised for its punctuality figures.

Lizzie Parry

HUNDREDS of commuters faced rush hour chaos yesterday - the same day as train operator National Express East Anglia was praised for its punctuality figures.

Those heading back to work after the Bank Holiday weekend faced severe delays after a section of the mainline between Ipswich and Colchester was closed.

Commuters queued in the rain waiting for replacement buses after the overhead wire problem in the Manningtree area forced all London bound services to be suspended.

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But on a day when hundreds of disgruntled passengers were forced to wait, jump in cabs, take their cars or just give up getting to work altogether it was announced National Express East Anglia has in fact improved its punctuality times.

Over the course of the last year from April 1, 2008, to March 31, 2009, the number of trains running to time has increased, exceeding the 90% mark.

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More than 19 of every 20 services arrived at their destinations on time over the last year, with punctuality figures averaging 90.5%.

A National Express East Anglia spokesperson said: “Train service performance on our network has continued to improve over recent years but we recognise that passengers want greater consistency, especially on our mainline route where much of our efforts are concentrated in bringing about further improvement.

“The work we have been taking forward through Joint Performance Improvement Plans with Network Rail has delivered annual average punctuality over 90% and we are working together to improve this figure still further.”

But for regular commuters the delays experienced yesterday, after damage to overhead power lines, felt like an all too regular occurrence.

Dennis Smith, of Diss, who was travelling to London, said: “It is not good enough. I will be late and it is too frequent that it happens.

“The problems with the trains are historic and the whole structure needs to be changed.”

Fellow commuter Gordon Watson, of Diss, who was also travelling to the capital, added: “It happens so often. On top of problems like this there are ten or 15 minute delays every day - that's the norm.

“Once a month it is a two to three hour delay. I work for myself so I lose out.”

On Monday evening about 140 passengers were left stranded on a train as a result of the damage to the lines.

The London to Norwich train came to a halt at the level crossing at Ardleigh, just a few minutes after it left Colchester station at 6.24pm, where passengers waited for more than an hour to be rescued.

Commuters had to use ladders to evacuate the train before being transferred to buses to be ferried to Ipswich station, where they were able to continue their journeys.

It had been hoped services would have returned to normal by the morning rush hour but the section of railway was closed until about 8am - resulting in hundreds of people being affected by the fault.

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