We’ve long been assured that nearly all trains run on time. Network Rail and the train companies recently released figures showing that 92% of trains were on time over the last year, but doesn’t that seem unlikely?
If you’re a regular commuter, you may be thinking it can’t possibly be right that 92% of trains are on time. And that’s because it’s not.
As it happens, these figures only count a train as being late if it arrived more than five minutes late (for short journeys) or ten minutes late (for longer journeys) at its final destination only. If delays were encountered en route but the train arrived at the terminus ‘on time’, no delay was counted.
Breaking it down
But now, Network Rail and the train companies have finally released more accurate punctuality figures. They paint a rather different picture – showing that only 70% of trains arrived on time (within one minute either side of its booked slot) in 2011-12. For long distance trains, the figure is even lower at 60%.
But I don’t want to lambast the performance behind these figures too much – more trains are running than ever, and I’m glad that the accurate figures are now publically available for everyone to see.
We only have figures dating back to 2001-2, the period most affected by reactions to the serious Hatfield train crash. After infrastructure was found to be at fault for the derailment, huge numbers of speed restrictions were put in place all over the network. It stands to reason that things could only get better from there.
And they have got better. The national figure of trains running on time rose from 47% in 2001-2 to a high of 70% in 2009-10; very close to the current level.
The Association of Train Operating Companies released some interesting figures for comparison. For example, the Civil Aviation Authority reported that 82% of domestic UK flights at Heathrow either arrived early or within 15 minutes of their due time in the last year, while the Highways Agency reported 83.5% of road journeys were defined as ‘timely’ when judged against reference times from historical data.
A bone of contention
Late trains and high fares are often the subject of much anger, as demonstrated by commenter Tpoots on a previous Conversation:
‘I pay an absolute fortune for my train fare and my train is regularly late… unfortunately I’m entitled to nothing back as I get a season ticket.’
This sentiment is often echoed, but now we’ve seen these recent figures, should we instead be pleased to see so much improvement over the years? Or are these delays simply not good enough weighed up against the fares we have to pay?
How late do you think a train should be before it’s considered ‘delayed’?
3 - 5 minutes (35%, 114 Votes)
6 - 10 minutes (20%, 66 Votes)
1 - 2 minutes (18%, 59 Votes)
More than 10 minutes (15%, 50 Votes)
No delay is acceptable (13%, 43 Votes)
Total Voters: 332