/ Travel & Leisure

Are rail passengers getting a raw deal with delays?

Delayed trains Waterloo

Many regular rail users will be well acquainted with delays and cancellations to their journeys. But how many hours would you have thought have actually been wasted standing around waiting for trains to turn up?

Well according to our latest analysis of the rail regulator’s train delay data, nearly 3.6 million hours were lost to significantly delayed journeys in just one year.

This lost time adds up to over 410 years, and that doesn’t even include delays of less than 30 minutes or over 2 hours.

Train delays

These delays affected more than seven million passenger journeys last year. Virgin Trains East Coast was the train company with the highest percentage of significant delays, with almost 4% (3.7%) of all their passenger journeys delayed for 30 minutes or more affecting nearly 800,000 passenger journeys. It was followed by Virgin Trains West Coast (1.95%) and Grand Central (1.1%).

The train company with the lowest percentage of significant delays was c2c (0.16%), but even in this case, thousands of individual passengers’ journeys were still affected.

These are pretty astonishing figures, but more importantly, than the numbers is the real impact this has people’s lives.

One understandably frustrated commuter, Rory, told us:

‘Most of all I’m furious about all the lost time – time wasted on trying to get home, time I should be spending with my wife and family, the missed meals, drinks, birthdays, meetings, appointments, anniversaries, gigs and cinema trips’.

And the hours lost waiting for or on trains is made even more infuriating when passengers struggle to claim their entitled compensation.

Claiming compensation

Despite the high number of delays, we found that there are still real issues in rail passengers getting compensated.

Our super-complaint to the rail regulator trying to get the industry to address the dysfunctional compensation system was two years ago this month.

Some of you will recall that following our super-complaint the regulator agreed that the situation needed significant improvement. Yet last month we found that two in five (40%) commuter passengers said they still weren’t being told of their rights to compensation the last time they were delayed and would have qualified for compensation. This rose to over half (54%) of leisure passengers surveyed who qualified.

Two years on and train companies are still not putting passengers first. Not enough delayed passengers are being made aware of compensation they’re owed and train companies still need to simplify their often convoluted claiming systems.

Another rail user, Sue, told us:

‘On a journey from Winchester to Brighton my connecting train at Fareham was cancelled. I spent the best part of two very cold hours sitting on an outside bench because there was no waiting room.

‘I submitted a claim the next day and received a reply more than a month later telling me it had been rejected because it was outside the 28-day allowable time period. I persisted and eventually received vouchers, which I did not want as I don’t plan to repeat the experience any time soon.’

Impact of delays

Rail passengers have told us about the serious impact train delays can have on their lives, and our analysis of the regulator’s data shows just how long passengers spent stuck on, or waiting for, trains that are very late or don’t even turn up at all.

The progress to date to improve the situation for passengers is simply not good enough. If train companies don’t inform people of their rights and can’t simplify unnecessarily complex claiming systems, then the government must press for automatic compensation to be introduced in order to ensure that all passengers get what they are owed.

Have you experienced delayed trains recently? How often are you delayed and what impact do delays have on you? Have you had trouble claiming for a delay or cancellation? Do you back our call for automatic compensation?

Do you claim for a train delay or cancellation when you're owed compensation?

Yes - always (28%, 398 Votes)

No I don't claim (28%, 387 Votes)

Sometimes - I can't always be bothered (23%, 328 Votes)

I haven't experienced a delay or cancellation (21%, 292 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,405

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The petition is ‘Demand Better Rail Services’, but both this article and the super complaint have nothing to do with improving rail services. It is all about compensation and comes across as delays are ok as long as you get compensated for them.

You can’t have it both ways Which? – Compensation has to be paid for so puts up prices and uses up money that could be better spent on improvements that could make real differences.

So which is it, better rail services or compensation?

I agree with alfa – if, via the mechanism of increased fares, passengers want to pay compensation to each other when there are delays then fine.

But, better and more frequent services ought to be a more practical solution for these problems.

Hi Alfa, the super-complaint was made as part of the first phase of the campaign when we focused on access to compensation when it is due and clearer information on passenger rights. The second phase of this campaign broadened our calls on the industry to address basic problems with services – often people don’t have a choice over the train company they travel with yet when we collected thousands of passenger experiences we found that passengers frequently put up with overcrowded, dirty and often late running and unreliable trains yet they are paying more than ever before and yet aren’t being informed of their rights.

So, in our view, in a market where consumers are often not able to vote with their feet and switch providers if they are unhappy, compensation is a critical factor in incentivising train operators to improve the service they deliver to their customers. Automatic compensation is the best method of compensating customers, as the rail industry has continued to fail in making any significant progress on this issue.

We want to see increased measures from train operating companies to better inform passengers of their rights to compensation and how to claim. If they don’t do this then we think automatic compensation should be introduced as quickly and broadly as possible across the entire rail network and all train operating companies. We also believe that there should be full compliance from train operating companies with existing consumer protection laws such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs).

I’m always disappointed when I see a campaign for automatic compensation. This simply gets built in to what people pay, and will it have any effect upon a terribly inefficient system? Commuting uses huge amounts of rolling stock and manpower for two relatively brief periods in a working day. Much of it standing idle the rest of the time. We should be tackling the whole problem, rather than putting a sticking plaster on a bit of it. Stagger working hours, provide incentives for employers to move out of the heavily congested areas lead by public services, for example. Commuters know what the problems of such congested mass transport entail and if their timing is so vital, need to leave a little earlier and be prepared to get home a little later; that is commuting. I’ve done it – by road. No means of compensation there.

OK, a bit strong, but we need to think about the wider implications of the problem.

The problem with compensation is that it will come out of ticket prices – we’ll simply end up paying ourselves. Personally I rather see TOCs permitted fare increases limited if their performance falls below a given level.

How do you penalise others involved in delays? Network Rail say 60% of delays are down to them – for example Engineering works,Knock-on delays, Signals and points failure, Leaves, Flooding, Landslips, Snow and ice, Buckled rail and summer heat, Vandalism and trespass, Fatalities. 20%of delays are caused by vandalism, cable theft, weather and trespass. As a public organisation, penalising them financially will simply come from the taxpayer – us.

By all means complain, but also think about how the situation might sensibly be improved.

Hi Malcolm, thanks for your comments. While commuters are likely to suffer more delays and cancellations than most rail passengers, it’s not just commuters that are included in these stats. We think automatic compensation is the best method of compensating customers, as the rail industry has continued to fail in making any significant progress with delays and cancellations. This will remove the hassle passengers face with the lack of clarity and complexity of compensation arrangements in rail, the inconsistencies in train companies’ handling of compensation claims and the reliance on train companies to provide accurate information, while ensuring passengers receive the money they are owed and driving improvements across the network. Six of the 27 train operators – Virgin Trains West Coast, c2c, Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Northern – currently have demonstrated that auto-compensation works to improve the system for customers (Abellio Greater Anglia have committed to introducing auto-comp). Yet even here there is room for improvement as eligibility for auto-compensation varies, risking further confusion or limiting consumer choice in the ticketing market. For example, auto-compensation only applies on tickets purchased directly from the operator (Virgin Trains West Coast) and for season ticket smart card holders only (c2c, Govia Thameslink).

If the service is efficient, trains on time, there is no penalty to be paid.

If you really want to make improvements then the only way is to hold all the Directors of the Railway companies responsible. First stop all bonuses and if the number of delays do not improve after x journeys then decrease there pay by 10% per x number of journeys. I’m sure within a couple of years one will see a dramatic improvement.

Malcolm: although Lauren hasn’t said it here directly, when any train is delayed that company is automatically compensated for the delay by Network Rail. If I’m reading the W? campaign correctly, all they’re asking for is that the automatic compensation paid to the train companies is then automatically transferred to the passengers.

If I’m right, then it doesn’t affect what people pay, because it doesn’t affect the train operators in any way other than to force them to set up an automatic system for compensating passengers. That in itself could save them money, since if the system were fully automated, then there would be no need to process each claim separately.

I could be wrong about this, as it’s not explained in the topic header, but I did have to do some reading up when I was asked to write the lyrics. The main question, I guess, is how train companies handle compensation for delays that are their fault, rather then Network Rail’s – unless NR compensate automatically for all delays.

@ldeitz, thanks Lauren. The real point I was trying to get across was that we want to see sustained improvements in rail services and I don’t believe compensating passengers is the best way to achieve that,

We have an overcrowded railway system and in many cases elderly rolling stock that is particularly stressed at peak times when commuters wish to travel en masse. If we think late trains are largely down to incompetence by the companies concerned then financially penalising them might wake them up. However, I have not seen evidence that this is the case; perhaps someone will produce it if it exists.

If you financially penalise the train operating companies when delays are down to circumstances, not incompetence, then you will drain revenue from the system and reduce the capital available for investment in improvements. If you even further reduce income by compensating all, whether they merit recompense or not, then you decrease further still the capital available to improve the service. What does this achieve? More taxpayers subsidy required?

I do not pretend to be any expert on railways, but looking at the published figures for punctuality performance between 2012 and 2017, c2c are 2.3% worse, Northern 1.6%, Govia Thameslink 7.7%, Virgin West Coast 1.9%, Virgin East Coast actual better by 3.45% (but from a low base of 85.5%). I’m not sure this shows compensation to be working; I suspect it might down to a 14% increase in passenger journeys.

I believe we need to look at how the rail system contributes to lateness and how it can be improved. Is it incompetence? Is it infrastructure? Is it investment required? If the latter we need to find the source; taking it away in compensation seems to be counter-productive.

You are broadly right, Ian. The train operating companies are not distributing to delayed passengers more than a portion of what they receive from Network Rail and retain the balance as operating income or to subsidise the compensation they have to pay out when they are the cause of their own delays. Some of what they get back from Network Rail is for increased operating expenses as a result of the delay [overtime, rail replacement buses, taxis, service alterations, etc]. Within the railway industry there is an extremely complicated and bureaucratic delay attribution system which calculates down to each minute which part of the network caused the problem, which companies were affected by it, and to what extent. This forms the basis of the settlement. Some delays are what are called ‘TOC-on-TOC’ where a problem on one company impacts on the service of another [train breakdown, for example]; a similar mechanism calculates the amount of money that should be paid. One problem at the moment is that the train companies do not have consistent compensation policies. Another problem is that there are different rules for shorter journeys than for longer ones and that people travelling between intermediate stations are not always treated equitably. The Department for Transport intends to rectify the anomalies as it dispenses each new franchise.

This method simply drains money from the industry that requires capital to improve. It doesn’t matter who pays who; unless we increase investment we will not improve the rail system. So NR gives money for “unacceptable” delays to the TOCs, who pass it on to the customers, who then pay it back in increased fares and taxes to give NR the money it needs to improve the rail network.

If the problem is incompetence by staff in any of the companies concerned, then we should get rid of them, or demote them, and put in place competent people. If the problem is “systemic” – under-capacity, stations too short, unreliable rolling stock, signalling and track needing better maintenance, then we need to put the money into that.

But i’d still prefer to see the worsening problem that commuters impose on the network addressed – staggering working hours and moving business to more accessible places.

Alfa completely fails to see the true problem of any business. Every company regardless of size is only a service company. They rely on the income they receive from the quality of the service. they provide. The train network is no different. If trains were always clean, always on time they would be more acceptable to the general public. It is not a question of do we improve our railway system or do we compensate dissatisfied customers but a question of providing a service that more of the general public will use. This increases revenue without fare increases whilst at the same time reduces the money that should be paid in compensation. That way everybody wins but without the whip of compensation, the railway system has no need to do anything to improve their offering.

Is it time to call in the Japanese / Chinese rail authorities to sort out the mess as our own seem incapable of doing so?

The rail system has to deal with more customers at commuter time than ever, and has not had the investment to keep pace. When that investment takes place – Crossrail for example –
it creates further disruption and inconvenience until it is finished.. I see no way round that.

Many TOCs seem to simply do the best with what they have. Timekeeping is not always, maybe not often, in the hands of the train operator, but on the capacity of the network at any given time – looked after by Network Rail (they admit responsibility for 60% of late running trains). So a substantial part of the problem is insufficient infrastructure and rolling stock (and possibly staff|) at peak times.

Rather than continually blaming the effect we also need to look at the cause, and what can be done there For example, why do we not stagger working hours to reduce the immense pressure at current peak times? Why do we not try to relocate employment nearer where people want to live (or can afford to). Commuters are a major part of the problem, yet they know what they are in for when they choose to live further from work – because of nicer and/or cheaper housing perhaps – yet of course still want the better paid jobs in London, say. They go into this with their eyes open. By all means complain about the service, fair enough. But look deeper into the problem and see how the whole system can be improved.

You make a very valid point! How do youngsters get all over the rail system with graffiti and thieves steal essential safety property? What, IF, they were terrorists with more serious intentions to cause havoc and death? Makes one stop and think doesn’t it? Vandalism & littering are major concerns – not just silly behaviour because if ignored on the present scale – they have the potential to make us all far more vulnerable. As for the rail operations themselves, passengers are being herded on to trains, without seatbelts and often even without a seat. We desperately need fewer cars being sold for personal use and far more investment in safe and coordinated public transport that can function under most weather conditions and so on. Otherwise, encourage far less travelling altogether, and maybe coupled with no more littering – we might repair some damage we cause our atmosphere and planet!

My Virgin train was delayed by 1.5hrs and compensation was paid quickly and automatically. Well done to Virgin!

Having seen a documentary on TV about Chinese/Japanese railways just recently it really does put our system and methods back a few years.

I didn’t notice that much difference myself, when I last used the trains in Japan.

Also, thanks to a late running train, I almost missed my flight home.

I don’t know whether I understand the figures correctly, but if 7 million passenger-journeys were delayed by 3.6 million hours, that seems like around half an hour in a year. Is that what is meant? A bit trivial if it is.

real impact this has on people’s lives.” – “I’m furious about all the lost time “. Commuting itself involves far more “lost time” than such delays. It is hardly new that there are delays, partly caused by the huge volumes of people who decide to travel to work in a relatively compressed timescale twice a day. We could begin to address this by introducing more flexible working hours or by not living so far from work, for example, if time is so much more precious.

I can find no link in the intro to look at the statistics. Try this http://orr.gov.uk/statistics/popular-statistics#performance. This shows around 1750 million passenger journeys a year, on around 8 million planned trains. 2.9% cancelled, and I infer 0.6% with delays of 30 mins or more. Links are given to more detailed data. The point I make is that as well as looking at the effects we should also look at causes to understand how delays occur – are there strikes, infrastructure damage, lack of crews, failed train, weather, track possession, or evidence of sheer incompetence. You might say it doesn’t matter what the cause is, but if you are late for work one day because you are not feeling great, a domestic crisis, a puncture, overslept, does your company want you to compensate them?

As alfa says, more compensation = higher fares – no magic money tree to pay out. How does automatic compensation work when, as a commuter, you may well have a frequent train service (ours runs every 15 mins). How do you prove you were delayed because the train you “meant to catch” was, perhaps, cancelled.

No thought here about the multitude of other commuters who drive to work and get stuck in traffic. No compensation, though, can be claimed by them.

I don’t use trains to commute (I’m retired) but for longer journeys & most of the delays (very few, in truth) have been because of things outside the train operator’s control e.g. extreme weather, people & animals on line including suicides, vehicles striking bridges, signal failures etc. I use the trains because they are more reliable & generally quicker than driving; I have been delayed much more frequently by problems on the roads than on trains. I always claim any compensation due & have not had any problem with this although the train operators do seem to assume that everyone has access to a smart phone &/or computer. I asked for a paper form at Birmingham New street station to claim compensation recently & couldn’t get one.

I have a feeling this Conversation is about to be released to a mass audience and will be deluged with a tidal wave of predictable responses and the same old moans, and more appeals for nationalisation, so I am getting my two-penn’orth in early.

I note what Lauren has said, and technically it is all the right words, but I am getting increasingly fed up with these tendentious Conversations which are little better than one-sided rants. People will support them because the full picture is not being given.

I endorse what Malcolm has said about the cause of the problems. What is the point of hitting out at Virgin Trains East Coast when it is running virtually a turn-up-and-go service between London, the North-East, and Scotland on infrastructure that was installed decades ago on the economy plan and is no longer fit for purpose? There’s no point in scandalising Network Rail on this 400-mile route either because it can only do what it is permitted to do each year to put things right [and every engineering project inflicts even more delays so they have to be spread over a number of years]. We are having to put up with this in East Anglia, which has also suffered long-term under-investment and is running under seventy-year old electrification in places, but in a couple of years or so we are going to have a fabulous railway with all new trains, thousands more seats every hour, more frequent services, brand new electrification, and higher speeds.

I admit to being an apologist for the railways [because they are the safest and most environmentally acceptable form of people-shifting that we have] and I accept that London-centric Which? has to represent the commuter voice and so closes its eyes to the hundreds of millions of train journeys each year that go without a hitch. But this annual gripe, coinciding with the next fares increase, strains the patience of those of us who look to Which? for fair, balanced and correctly-informed reporting. I challenge Which? to produce and put on the stand one regular rail user who does not know the delay-repay rules for their service. I appreciate that occasional travellers might be less well-informed but in my experience there are notices and leaflets at most major stations that provide details and claim forms, plenty of staff around to ask [try the ticket office, enquiry office or customer help-desk for starters], plus the internet that most people leap on at the slightest sign of inconvenience.

No one can condone the deplorable service experienced by ‘Sue’ when she claimed compensation for a train cancellation, and sorting out that problem must be given priority.

I probably waste more time in supermarket checkout queues than ever I do on the railways where I usually have something else handy to occupy my time.

I am sorry, Which?, but this isn’t the product I wanted for my subscription. It’s more like the rotten chickens sold to customers for their Christmas dinners which is a far more serious matter for investigation in my opinion.

pjmon says:
29 December 2017

Compensation is not the correct word; it should be called what it is a “refund”. A refund for a service which you have paid for but did not receive. Following the previous comments that “compensation” will only push up fares, thereby denting more money going into the improvement of the railways, you can solve that one by reducing the dividends paid to shareholders. Other commercial enterprises seem to manage with the concept of refunds, for goods or services not provided for, without going into meltdown.

If you can show that the TOCs are incompetent then your point is valid. Can you provide this evidence? Otherwise we need to look at the whole complex picture and depriving it of income – by giving it away in “refunds” – is counterproductive, unless the taxpayer wishes to provide even more subsidy. Network Rail, for example, say 60% of lateness is caused by them, for a whole variety of reasons.

One of the risks of increasing the financial burden of train delays is that the train companies will thin out and slow down the timetables to make any delays less significant.

The thing that amuses me about this is that people complain about 5-30 minute delays as if there is a better way of doing it! If you do any amount of commuting by car the idea of allowing just an extra 10 minutes is laughable, for most car commutes to be sure of being there on time you would need to allow at least twice the journey time!
As others have remarked this is about compensation not making a better rail system.
How many hours are lost to traffic jams, multiple orders of magnitude larger would be my guess!
Air travel? I’ve just arrived in India, check in 3 hours before flight, twice as I had to change planes, a 1.5 hour wait at immigration, so 7.5 hours for a 7.5 hour flight, maybe factored in, but an awful lot of hanging around!

Michael D says:
29 December 2017

At least there is compensation available for delayed rail users. How do road travellers claim compensation for similar disruptions (weather, infrastructure breakdowns/blockages/essential maintenance) and from who?

Earlier this year, Virgin changed the barriers at Leeds to ones which retain the ticket. Even if I had known that before I went through, I had already missed my connecting bus through a delayed TPE service, and would not have wanted to add to the delay by trying to find a member of staff willing to open the wide barrier for me. When I tried to claim from TPE for the delay, they told me that I needed the ticket to claim. (I had a booking ref., but it was from Virgin, as I’d been buying tickets for several journey together). One “improvement” negating another!

Gerry says:
29 December 2017

Back in the days of British Rail, things were far from perfect but at least they made an effort when things went wrong. For example, if an hourly train was cancelled, other services would usually make some extra stops to pick up the relevant passengers, so no-one ended up being inconvenienced too badly.

But in today’s privatised, fragmented system there’s no such goodwill; the TOCs just game the system for maximum profit, and those pesky passengers can lump it. Cancelled train? Tough, just wait in the cold for an hour and watch the fast trains hurtle through: your TOC won’t stop one for you because they’d have to pay a penalty for it being a couple of minutes late at its destination, and it’s cheaper to pay you compensation. They’re laughing all the way to the bank because they know that many passengers won’t claim, and they just trouser the automatic compensation they get from Network Rail.

However, TOCs will soon change their tune when compensation is automatic and kicks in earlier. Of course, they won’t actually care about their passengers, but at least they will manage delays better because it will cost them much more if they don’t. So let’s incentivise the TOCs by having automatic, per minute compensation ASAP !

I agree with what has been already said by the commenters. I have a nephew who is a train driver, he is extremely well paid, thanks to the militant unions!! I think that compensation for a delayed train is the wrong way to solve this broken system. Each train that is delayed should attract a hefty fine for the operator, that way it makes them think about losing a lot of the thing they love most, money!!

I think most of the commenters have said it all. I have a nephew who is a train driver, they have it easy and get unbelievably high pay. I do not agree with compensation, I think that for every delayed train the operator should be fined, heavily! Maybe then they will get their act together and improve a disgustingly broken system!

My son and his wife use the trains from South Norwood to Victoria and there are so many disruptions and overcrowding

Rob Sargent says:
29 December 2017

One would think after more than a 100 years practice, railways management would have got it right by now.
There needs to be a ‘root and branch’ change in philosophy and mindset – apart from from the £billions of investment.

People no longer manage anything They have computers to do everything for them and the computer always gets the blame because those using them no longer can think for themselves and do not even bother to check that things are right by using a little common sense as well Most who manage have very little experience of the industry having entered it straight from university Those who started at the bottom and worked their way to the top know how things should be done The workers know how but have little chance to say Just ask a nurse about the NHS

Why is compensation only due to rail and air passengers?
Should it be extended to roads with delays to car passengers, buses, commercial vehicles etc.who pay large sums to use the system in tax, insurance, fuel duty, etc
Similar principles apply where the network owner, councils, government, etc “run the road network” which fails to deliver an efficient system due to overcrowding, poor networks, roadworks etc.

………and compensation from hospitals, when your appointment is delayed, your doctors surgery when you have to wait to see them, the supermarket when you have to queue to pay…….and then we should compensate our employer when we are late for work, the hospital and doctor when we are late or miss an appointment……….Where will it all end? 🙂 🙁

American way coming ?? sue or claim for anything you can if you have just a small chance of success The only winners will be as always the legal profession ? They always seen to win every time

I seem to remember similar complaints in 1945! nothing changes.

You must be very old because I cannot remember much from then and I thought that I was an antique remember or read??

I must presume a lot of the Which staff travel to work by train and they suffer lengthy delays and cancellations all the time. Why else do they seem to have a vendetta against the rail companies? Look, if you want a rail service with the highest levels of safety regulations in the world then inevitably there will delays and cancellations sometimes when things like points and signals fail. Added to that you need track maintenance. You also get people on tracks, trees on tracks. The list goes on and on. Sure, get your compensation but dont be too surprised when fares rise to cover the rail companies running costs. PS I dont work for any rail company neither do I hold any shares in them.

I use VTEC a lot and generally find them good – certainly more convenient than driving and when there are incidents I claim my refund. As someone has already commented, delays are often due to issues outside TOC/NR control, e.g. trespassing, cable theft etc. And I’ve lost count of the number of bridge strikes by vehicles that cause delays yet the punishment for this is punitive.

I would recommend reading this article :


as it highlights that TOCs are generally hamstrung by the DfT and that is what our ire should be directed at first and foremost.

Sadly all political parties seem to have minimal knowledge about transport and concentrate on short-term fixes for votes. Witness recent Labour calls for nationalisation.

And further interesting reading from the Man in Seat 61 for those who constantly hold up foreign railways as being superior/cheaper:


Rod Northcott says:
30 December 2017

Not only the issue about delays is worth comment. Nearly all of our rail system now is run by nationalised companies from Europe and at least one with strong links to communist China,these foreign owned train operators have no loyalties to the UK ,passengers or Govt,yet are heavily subsidised by we British tax payers.The policy of getting rid of guards ,backed by the Govt. is leading to major disruption.I would not want my family to travel on a long distance train or indeed any train without the means of contacting a member of staff in order to gain assistance whilst a passenger,be it from sexual innuendo or worse or in the case of ill health emergency treatment from a skilled staff member. Fining these companies doesn’t matter since their subsidies run in to millions of pounds.
The answer is to take the railways away from the foreign owners,take away the tax payers subsidy and instead of useless aircraft carriers ,with no crew or aircraft and Type 45 destroyers with useless under powered engines invest on a major scale in our own infrastructure including the railways.We all know that this Govt.has no intention of doing this so look to the alternative.

The salient problem with the rail system is years of lack of investment and improvement over time. The British electorate, in voting to leave the EU was a wake up call to both government and privately owned rail companies that our economy, if it is to prosper, is wholly dependent upon an efficient infrastructure and that means assurances that commuters are able to arrive at their place of work on time, with the least possible hassle.

To expect commuters to wholly fund these much needed improvements to the rail system and to also suffer the consequences at the same time is exploitative and detrimental to their wellbeing at both a psychological and physical level which ultimately stifles innovation and therefore economic productivity.

I am inclined to agree with Malcolm that compensation for cancelled and late trains is not working as long as the commuter is expected to continue to pay for it through increased fares and only leads to more confusion and inconvenience for them. Any successful company will scrap a system that is proven not to work and move on.

I am not in favour of complete nationalisation of the rail system and I dont agree that it is fair to expect commuters to foot the bill for its total reconstructive improvements. The answer must surely lie in the allocation of more part governmental subsidies to help kick start and encourage a return to an economy that was once the envy of the world, and that could depend on a fairer distribution of the British taxpayers money whose part contribution could make it a reality.

From Wiki “Since privatisation, the amount of investment has gone up nine-fold, from £698m in 1994–95 to £6.84bn in 2013–14
Also https://www.raildeliverygroup.com/about-us/publications.html?task=file.download&id=275

That wiki article, ignoring the number of unreliable sources noted, is written by a master in unintelligibility, and the style makes drawing unequivocal conclusions from it almost impossible. But one thing it does illustrate rather nicely is the sheer lack of intellect and foresight marshalled during the privatisation process. This paragraph is typical:

“The promoters of privatisation expected that the Rolling stock operating companies would compete against each other to provide the Train Operating companies with the rolling stock they required. In practice, in most cases the individual TOCs required specific classes of trains to run their services, and often only one of the ROSCOs would have that class of train, resulting in their having to pay whatever the ROSCO concerned cared to charge for leasing the trains. Old rolling stock was extremely profitable to the ROSCOs, as they were able to charge substantial amounts for their hire even though British Rail had already written off their construction costs.”

So it might seem the real villains of the piece are the three Rolling stock operating companies (ROSCOs). It’s even better when you discover “Unlike other major players in the privatised railway system of Great Britain, the ROSCOs are not subject to close regulation by the economic regulatory authority.“.

Wonderful. But Labour did try to change that in the form of John Prescott, but they ran out of legislative time. And it gets better:

“While the TOCs are negotiating for a franchise they have some freedom to propose different rolling stock options. It is only once they have won the franchise, however, they start negotiating with the ROSCOs. The ROSCO will know the TOC’s requirements and also knows the TOC has to obtain a fixed mix of rolling stock which puts the train operating company at a disadvantage in its negotiations with the ROSCO. However, Transport commentator Christian Wolmar considers it a mistake to blame the ROSCOs who are simply behaving as commercial companies always behave. Ultimately the problem for Wolmar is the system – and that is down to the government, who he believes are not prepared to seek a more workable solution.”

So on the face of it the TOCs are squeezed by the three main ROSCOs, s who owns them?

Angel Trains was created in 1994 as part of the privatisation of British rail, briefly owned by the Japanese investment bank, Nomura Holdings until 1997 when it was bought for around £395 million and became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. In 2008, the Royal Bank of Scotland group sold Angel Trains for £3.6 billion as part of a and on 13 June 2008, the Royal Bank of Scotland announced that a consortium led by Babcock & Brown had acquired the business, later the subject of a management buyout.

Eversholt is owned by the CK Hutchison Holdings based in Hong Kong, while Porterbrook has been owned since October 2014 by an international consortium comprising Alberta Investment Management Corporation, Allianz Capital Partners, EDF Invest and Hastings Fund Management. (Canadian, German and French.

Now, irrespective of who owns what, if the Government were to exert the control they ought, things might get a lot better, but it’s a labyrinthine mess at the moment and it’s impossible to know whether investment or lack of it is any sort of contributory factor. The big question is why the government itself doesn’t own and operate more private ROSCOs.

The ultimate irony in all this is that some of our TOCs and ROSCOs are owned by other State enterprises: in other words, other countries’ governments are making money by running their own private companies on our railways, while we sit back and do nothing. Why doesn’t our government invest through the market and purchase its own Train Operating Companies? It does, really, defy belief…

I found one source of figures for investment in our railways in answer to Beryl’s comment about lack of investment. Plus a link to a document on railway financial performance.

As for ownership we can say the same about energy, water, where we all had some opportunity to buy shares upon privatisation and many chose to then take the profit rather than maintain their investment. And we can rarely prevent take-overs.Perhaps many in the UK would rather take profits than have ownership?

I’d like to see UK nationals having substantial shareholdings in UK enterprises. To do this would require incentives to deter quick profit taking – such as bonus shares at intervals for those who maintain their shareholding. But investing is a free market where we are free to buy and sell shares as the mood, necessity or gain decides.

How much has everything else gone up by?

Any hint of nationalisation at this stage would result in investors pulling out with catastrophic results, but it would appear there are at present, too many fingers in too many fragmented private companies pies and ORR is failing to regulate.

Malcolm, many utility shares were sold off when Maxi Isa’s were introduced which promised a tax free return on investments.

Malcolm: thanks for that second link where it reveals most of the investment by private companies has been in rolling stock. That means, I suspect, that three companies have invested in some extra carriages and trains. A small amount has been in IT but having travelled extensively on French, Swiss and German railways we still have quite a bit of ground to make up in terms of keeping passengers informed aside from anything else.

Overall it’s a very small amount to spend on an ageing national infrastructure so on balance I suspect Beryl’s original comment was spot on.

In terms of ownership I agree that so long as the market dominates it’s very tricky to enforce ownership regulations, but other countries, such as Australia and France, manage to retain national ownership of crucial assets, in a variety of ways.

Look at the logic: why were the railways privatised? A: to make money for the government and stop the government of the day being held responsible for all the ills that bedevil travellers. Presumably, those buying the privatised company shares are making some money? Therefore the question becomes slightly different:

If owning the railway track, the railways’ rolling stock and the Train companies makes money, why does the government itself not enter the market and simply buy the shares of the companies in question – albeit slowly and quietly – so that eventually the government has a majority stake in those companies and thus they become ‘owned’ by the tax payers who will, if they’re that good a deal, make money from them year after year? It seems painfully obvious that that is what the government should be doing.

This, of course, was the enormous con worked by the Thatcher government in the ’80s and by successive (Tory) administrations since then. I’ve never been able to comprehend how people fell for the utter transparency and duplicity:

“Hey, here’s your chance to make money by buying shares in a company that you already own…”.

Maybe we’ve all got the railway services we deserve.

most of the investment by private companies has been in rolling stock.” – essentially their job. They don’t generally own the infrastructure under which their rolling stock operates.

Network Rail, a public body, owns and invests in most of the infrastructure – including track – from government grants and income. So the taxpayer owns it. Perhaps someone has historical figures for investment in track, signalling, stations etc to see just how investment in the network has increased or decreased?

£48 billion is allocated to Network Rail for 2019-2024 (they are “given” funds in 5 year tranches).
Perhaps this is relevant? http://dataportal.orr.gov.uk/displayreport/report/html/a830de20-83bf-408d-9c22-7f3ec23999f9

Another link to see some stats http://orr.gov.uk/statistics/popular-statistics#performance

The passenger trains were sold to rolling stock leasing companies whose shares are not publicly traded so cannot easily be acquired. The train operating companies were not sold any material assets on privatisation but bid for – and won – franchises to operate specified routes. The government could take each one out at the end of its franchise at no cost to the Exchequer. This is unlikely to happen under the present administration because it would end up being “held responsible for all the ills that bedevil travellers”. What I suspect we shall see is new franchises let between now and 2022 given longer and longer terms to make it unaffordable for a change of government to upset the apple-cart.

The only part of the railways that was sold to the public was the stations, track and signalling systems; Railtrack was created as a PLC for the purpose. It was put into ‘railway administration’ by the government of the day after a succession of major faults because it did not know what assets it had, it did not look after them satisfactorily and safely, and put profit before all other considerations. Its ultimate successor, Network Rail, after various re-incarnations. is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Department for Transport.

Most of the Large transport companies Bus companies haulage firms lease not buy They cannot afford the large amounts of money they now cost and they get a new one after a few years so keeping the fleet modern One modern coach can cost half a million pounds no less