Train services under the spotlight

TRAIN services are worse then they were in 1997 and more trains are arriving late, a new survey ahs claimed.The Liberal Democrat survey, published ahead of official Government figures this week, compared the punctuality performance of 20 train companies.

TRAIN services are worse then they were in 1997 and more trains are arriving late, a new survey ahs claimed.

The Liberal Democrat survey, published ahead of official Government figures this week, compared the punctuality performance of 20 train companies. It revealed that one in five trains were delayed in this year's "summer of chaos" and no privatised rail companies reached the standards they did in April 1997.

It said that in July and August this year 20.6% of Anglia Railways trains and 15.2% of First Great Eastern trains arrived more than five minutes late.

The figures from the House of Commons library show only 4.5% of Anglia Railways' services and 8.2% of First Great Eastern's were delayed by the same amount of time six years ago.


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The survey also reveals that both train companies have improved since July and August 2001, when there were severe delays due to the speed restrictions enforced after the Hatfield rail accident. That year 42.3% of Anglia Railways trains and 16.5% of First Great Eastern trains did not arrive within five minutes.

Peter Meades, public relations manager for Anglia Railways, said: "Other than the figures for August I am not sure where they have got their figures from and I do not know why they are comparing April 1997 with July and August 2001 and 2003.

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"In our Passenger Charter we work out how many trains were ten minutes late, so these figures on punctuality do not compare with the figures we have to publish and are obliged to meet. There has been a decline in punctuality in the last six years and we are open and honest about the issues."

He said the delays this summer were caused by the "excessive heat" affecting the overhead power cables, which meant rail companies had to impose speed restrictions for safety reasons.

"The general down turn in train performance is due to two factors. The first is that we run 60% more trains than we did in 1997, so the network is more congested. The second reason is that we, and Network Rail as a whole, are still recovering from the Hatfield rail accident in October 2000 and the problems this caused," he added.

Gill Caswell, communication manager for First Great Eastern, said: "There have been a couple of bad years since the Hatfield accident. The main reason for the delays is infrastructure problems. We have lots of other train operators in this area and 80% of the delays to our services are due to other people.

"On Thursday we were given the award for the best train operator. We wouldn't get that without some real hard work and determination to make it work."

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat shadow transport secretary, said: "In April, only two train companies were suffering increasing delays. Now six companies are getting worse. This is extremely bad news for long-suffering passengers."

The Strategic Rail Authority is due to publish the national rail trends for April to June 2003 later this week.

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