Rail firms to get stricter on reliability with new plans to measure train punctuality 'to the minute'

 
Rebecca Smith
The RDG expects the measure to be officially adopted by Network Rail in 2019
The RDG expects the measure to be officially adopted by Network Rail in 2019 (Source: Getty)

Britain's train firms will face stricter punctuality measures recording reliability to the minute from today, in an effort to improve performance.

A new benchmark for performance, that will mean rail firms report the proportion of trains arriving to the minute, is expected to become one of the official measures of reliability for Network Rail from April 2019, when its next funding period begins.

It will sit alongside the current government-set measure where short and long distance trains are judged "on time" if they are five or 10 minutes after schedule, respectively.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train firms and Network Rail, said the change will result in the "most transparent measure" of rail punctuality across Europe, in an effort to improve services. The new measure is being rolled out from today, and figures will be published at a national level on the RDG site by April 2018.

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For the most recent four week period between 28 May and 24 June, 64.8 per cent of trains arrived to the minute, while 91.7 per cent arrived within five minutes.

The to the minute measure will be displayed to help passengers gauge how likely it is that trains will be early, arrive during the minute of their timetabled arrival, or within three, five, 10 or 15 minutes, and after 15, 20 or 30 minutes.

Train punctuality is also planned to be measured where passengers get on and off at stations on a journey, as well as the current official measure of the final destination only.

RDG said that currently technology means that train punctuality can be measured to the minute for around 80 per cent of station calls. Between now and the new benchmark being adopted, the industry will be working to improve the figure, including considering using GPS data from trains.

RDG's chief executive Paul Plummer said:

For the passengers, businesses and communities that rely on the railway, every minute counts.

By adopting the most transparent measure in Europe, we want passengers to know that rail companies are putting an even greater focus on ensuring that trains are meeting the timetable, arriving to the minute and at stations along a journey.

Combined with the £50bn plus railway upgrade plan which will lead to 6,400 extra services a week by 2021, these new measures will help to build a better railway now and for the long term.

Meanwhile, Anthony Smith, the boss of independent watchdog Transport Focus said how performance is measured and reported should closely mirror passengers' real life experience, otherwise "trust will not be built up".

And Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said:

This could be a positive first step for passengers but only if it results in rail companies making making more trains run on time. Our analysis has found passenger satisfaction with the punctuality of trains is at a decade low.

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