Rail services' punctuality and reliability have dropped by 2.5 per cent in the UK, as signal failures, extreme weather and management issues led to more late-running trains for long-suffering commuters.
The latest statistics from rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) for the second quarter of 2018-19 also show that East Coast operator LNER suffered its worst punctuality levels in over a decade this year.
LNER, which recently took over the East Coast line from Virgin trains, scored a public performance measure (PPM) of 70.9 per cent in the second quarter of this year, down 15.5 points on the same quarter the previous year.
The moving annual average (MAA), the measure that reflects the proportion of trains on time in the past 12 months, for LNER also fell 10.4 points to 74.5 per cent from a year ago.
A spokesperson for LNER said: “Since the summer, we’ve introduced over 20 different initiatives looking at improving our fleet resilience and have also recently seen the return of one of our locomotives after being out of service since February 2018. This will put us in a stronger position to deal with any disruption that occurs on the network as we aim to deliver the best possible service to all our customers."
The news comes as commuters prepare to dig into their pockets to fund an average 3.1 fare rise in 2019 despite timetable chaos hitting thousands of passengers in May.
Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, said: “The travelling public have already suffered a miserable year of delays and cancellations so it’s outrageous that rail users will be hit with another above inflation fare rise in January. At the very least, fares should rise no higher than the consumer price index and be frozen altogether on routes that were impacted by the timetable chaos.
“The inability of the government to deliver a reliable rail service is playing havoc with people’s work and family lives. Labour will take the railways into public ownership, prevent above inflation fare rises and deliver the reliable services that passengers and our economy needs.”
Delays caused by Network Rail increased by 116 per cent in the second quarter this year for LNER, driven by increases in fatalities and trespassing, management problems, signal failures and track faults, while extreme weather contributed to around 300 PPM failures – up from just 17 the year before.
Lightning strikes at York and Leeds caused by the summer heatwave led to 19,000 delay minutes and 563 cancellations to all operators.
Robert Nisbet, regional director at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, added: "Every minute counts for our customers and we apologise to them for the unacceptable disruption over the summer.
“We have one of the most congested railways in Europe and this summer it has been stretched by an unprecedented heatwave and, in some parts of the country, the introduction of the May timetable.
“To ease pressure so customers get the railway they want, we’re delivering record investment in infrastructure but this can’t come at the cost of today’s punctuality. That is why we’re working hard to learn the lessons from May, starting with the introduction of the December timetable on Sunday.”
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines added: “We know that train performance has not been what our passengers deserve. We have let them down and we take responsibility for the part we have played in poor train service reliability.
“Passengers and businesses must be at the heart of the railway, both at Network Rail and the industry as a whole. Network Rail is fully committed to working closely with our industry partners to return performance to the levels our passengers expect and deserve.”
Here are the 10 worst train operators for running delayed services:
|Rank||Train operator||Punctuality percentage|
|7||Govia Thameslink Railway||80.4|
|8||Virgin Trains West Coast||81.5|
|10||Great Western Railway||83|