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Wednesday, May 19, 1999 Published at 00:44 GMT 01:44 UK


Trains 'unreliable, late and getting worse'

Punctuality and reliability 'worse than even last year'

A report by a new rail watchdog says train operators are continuing to offer poor punctuality and reliability.

The BBC's Simon Montague: The watchdog says performance HAS to improve
The Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (Opraf) says many of the UK's 25 rail companies offered a worse service in the first three months of 1999 than they had a year ago.

Opraf's director Mike Grant said: "In too many cases, current performance is not acceptable.

Mike Grant: I can take their franchise away
"While passengers can be reasonably confident that their train will run, the operators' record on ensuring they get there on time remains unacceptable."

One in top category

[ image:  ]
Opraf divided the companies into five categories, A-E, according to their reliability and punctuality figures.

Only the Isle of Wight's Island Line reached category A, by achieving at least 95% punctuality and 99.5% reliability on services over the last 12 months.

Six companies were in category B - achieving at least 90% punctuality and 99% reliability.

Twelve were in category C, with at least 85% punctuality and 98.5% reliability, while three fell in to category D with at least 80% punctuality and 98% reliability.

At the bottom in category E were Silverlink, Cardiff Railways and CrossCountry, which achieved less than 80% reliability and 97.9% reliability.

48 less punctual

Year on year, the figures showed that of the routes operated by the companies, only 19 had become more reliable, 33 had got worse and 25 had stayed the same.

[ image: CrossCountry, owned by Richard Branson's Virgin group, was worst]
CrossCountry, owned by Richard Branson's Virgin group, was worst
For punctuality, 27 route groups had improved, 48 declined and two stayed the same.

Operators who achieved overall category improvements were Midland Main Line, Great Western and Connex South Eastern.

Those who deteriorated were CrossCountry, Cardiff Railways, Great Eastern, Gatwick Express and West Coast Trains.

Mr Grant said: "This performance underlines the challenge the industry faces if it is to deliver the year-on-year service improvements promised at February's national rail summit."

"The operators in general, and some in particular, need to show a sustained improvement."

'Passengers deserve better'

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott echoed Mr Grant's warning that performance was not good enough.

"Passengers deserve better service, industry has promised improvements, and the government expects results," he said.

"Current performance levels are unacceptable. The industry must deliver the performance improvements it has promised.

"Those who fail to deliver will not have a long term future in the industry."

Passenger groups said train users remain "seriously disappointed" by the service they are getting.

'Live up to promises'

The Central Rail Users' Consultative Committee (CRUCC) criticised the "lack of consistency and the continuing downward slide of performance on many parts of the network."

It said: "Operators have now got to live up to their commitments, set out in their action plans and given at the rail summits, to provide the level of performance which passengers have every right to expect in return for the fares that they pay."

The Save Our Railways pressure group said the poor figures showed the present fragmented railway system was not working.

"It's proving impossible to run an efficient railway when the industry has been broken up into numerous competing companies," it said.

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