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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 14:36 GMT
Rail figures 'paint grim picture'
In some areas more than 40% of trains run late
Transport Secretary Stephen Byers has admitted the latest rail performance figures paint a "grim picture" of the UK network, with nearly one in three trains running late.

Just 71.2% of trains ran on time between October and December 2001 - compared to 79.0% in the previous three months - the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) said.

The figures relate to the months after Mr Byers put Railtrack into administration last Autumn.

Stephen Byers
Stephen Byers: Figures not good enough
The transport secretary said: "These figures paint a grim picture of delays and poor performance."

The Rail Passengers Council said the industry was struggling to meet the requirements of its timetables.

Only two of the passenger train companies - First Great Western and the Isle of Wight's Island Line - performed better between October and December 2001 than during the previous three months.

  For complete figures click here

Some are considering running fewer services to achieve a reliable timetable, according to reports.

London and south-east England commuters were particularly badly hit - with punctuality on peak-time trains down 17% compared with the previous three months.

The figures show an improvement on the three months of chaos that followed the Hatfield crash in October 2000 but compare unfavourably with the 81.5% achieved during the same period in 1999, the 81% in 1998 and the 86% in 1997.

SRA chairman Richard Bowker described the figures as "disappointing".
Worst performance
West Anglia Great Northern 52.3%
Thameslink 53.9%
South West Trains 54.4%
South Central 56.5%
Virgin Cross Country 58.4%

Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa May said: "These figures show the chaos the railways were put in when Stephen Byers pulled the plug on Railtrack."

Mr Byers said the figures were "simply not good enough" and emphasised the need for rail leaders to co-operate with the government to achieve improvements.

"Simply tinkering around at the edges will not bring the long-term improvements to our railways we so badly need."

'Firm foundations'

He admitted the collapse of Railtrack had made matters worse.

"We know that senior executives of Railtrack were arguing for the interests of shareholders rather than perhaps concentrating on the railway network," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

When old trains can be better than new:
  • Buying new trains is not always the solution people think it will be
    For more:   click here

  • But, he added, there were "firm foundations in place" for the recovery of the rail network.

    Asked if he expected to remain in his job, Mr Byers said: "That's a matter for the prime minister."

    Also released on Monday are government statistics showing the age of rolling stock.

    Complaints fell

    The average for trains running between October and December 2001 was 20.07 years.

    Stuart Francis, of the Rail Passengers Council, said the blame for poor performance also lay at the door of train operating companies (TOC).

    "We have to ask the TOCs why is it that we still have failing old rolling stock and even failing new rolling stock," he said.

    George Muir, of the Association of Train Operating Companies, improvements were "already being made".

    "We have 4,000 carriages on order - that's a massive investment," he told the BBC.

    The number of miles travelled by passengers increased by 5% between October and December 2001 - while passenger complaints fell 7.4%.

      Click here to return

    The BBC's Simon Montague
    "Autumn is always bad for delays"
    David Da Costa, Better Rail Advisory Group
    "It is a national disgrace"
    UK Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
    "We are beginning to see improvements this year"
    See also:

    13 Dec 01 | UK
    Rail services worsening
    05 Mar 02 | England
    Rail rage tackled by classes
    31 Jan 02 | UK Politics
    Rail revival plan 'falls short'
    18 Mar 02 | England
    Train company explains its success
    14 Jan 02 | UK Politics
    Rail masterplan unveiled
    09 Jan 02 | UK
    Is UK transport the worst?
    11 Jan 02 | State of the railways
    UK train time-keeping
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