NEWS
18/09/2018 08:25 BST | Updated 18/09/2018 12:47 BST

To No One's Surprise, Rail Delays 'Are At Their Worst In 12 Years'

Severe weather and new timetables blamed for overground chaos.

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Severe weather and new timetables have caused chaotic delays on Britain’s railways, causing punctuality to plummet to a 12-year low, statistics show.

One in seven trains (14%) missed the industry’s Public Performance Measure (PPM) of punctuality in the 12 months to 18 August, according to data published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

The last time the annual rolling average was worse was in February 2006, when former PM Tony Blair was in power, yet fares have risen almost 10% over the same period.

PPM measures whether a train arrives at its final destination within five minutes of the scheduled time, or 10 minutes for a long-distance service.

Train punctuality has been affected by a series of  issues over the past year.

A spell of freezing weather known as the Beast from the East ruined parts of the network in February and March.

Passengers faced further disruption when new timetables were introduced on 20 May.

There was huge disruption to journeys in the north and south east of England for several weeks after the new running schedules were implemented.

On Thursday the ORR will publish its interim report into the cause of the problems.

A number of factors have previously been blamed, including delayed electrification projects in the north, poor planning by train operators and the decision by transport ministers to phase in the introduction of new Govia Thameslink Railway services.

The government is expected to launch a review of the railways this week, amid criticism of the franchising model. 

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “The delays and cancellations on our railways is fast becoming a national disgrace thanks to the Tories. With fares set to go up by 36% since 2010, it’s clear that passengers are paying more for less.

“Nobody should have to suffer daily delays as part of their commute, but under the Tories passengers are paying through the nose for the privilege of being crammed into late and overcrowded trains.

“The government’s blind obsession with privatisation is putting the future of our railways at risk. Labour will do what’s best for passengers and taxpayers by taking the railways into public ownership in order to improve services and cap fares.”

Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Darren Shirley urged the government and train operators to “learn from the mistakes of the recent timetable chaos”, adding that increasing fares in January will “risk further denting passengers’ confidence in the railways”.

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith warned that reliability is the “key priority” for people who travel by train, and day-to-day operations as well as long-term investments must “focus on delivering this”.

Robert Nisbet, regional director of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said: “The industry is working hard to deliver its long-term plan to drive better punctuality so that more services arrive on time. We are investing billions to ease congestion, reduce delays and minimise disruption.

“We have been saying that the time is right for root and branch reform of the railway so that it can deliver more for passengers, communities, businesses and taxpayers.”