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Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
More trains running late
commuters at platform
Most commuters have faced more delays
More UK trains are running late with commuters in the south experiencing the most delays, according to official figures.

The Shadow Strategic Rail Authority (SSRA) said punctuality worsened on routes run by 20 out of 25 train companies.

One of the worst performers was French company Connex where 5% fewer of its trains on its South Central and South Eastern routes ran on time compared to last year.

Long distance high speed trains on time
Anglia: 86.4%
Great North Eastern: 84.5%
Great Western: 85.4%
Midland Mainline: 86.8%
Virgin West Coast:82.1%
Virgin Cross Country: 81.4%
The SSRA said things would improve as rail route franchises were replaced.

The authority's chief executive, Mike Grant, said: "Much-needed investment from operators and Railtrack and stronger incentive regimes for operators are the key strands of the process, leading to improvements in performance over time."

The figures show only three rail companies - Virgin CrossCountry, Wales & West and Cardiff Railway - improved their punctuality from April to June 2000 compared with the same three months last year.

Ageing trains

Virgin West Coast and Great Eastern saw no change in the amount of trains running on time.

George Muir, director general of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said he was disappointed with the increase in the number of late trains.

We do have the wrong kind of weather

Gerald Corbett, Railtrack chief executive
He said train companies were running an extra 257 trains a day, which had led to increased congestion on the tracks.

"No more trains can run on key parts of the network during peak time," he said.

He said that simply maintaining an ageing fleet of trains was not enough to provide three million journeys a day to a high enough standard.

"The need for new investment is therefore vital and we are optimistic that the government's 10-year transport plan will deliver the investment needed to accommodate passenger growth and more train services," he said.

Meanwhile the chief executive of Railtrack said "heads should roll" after accepting responsibility for delays caused by what he described as a "truly dreadful" track improvement programme".

London and South East trains on time
Chiltern Railways: 92.9%
Connex South Central: 87.0%
Connex South Eastern: 81.0%
Great Eastern: 93.4%
LTS: 91.0%
NC Silverlink: 87.2%
South West Trains: 89.2
Railtrack chief executive Gerald Corbett, speaking at the company's annual general meeting, said: "The challenge is to deliver a railway that does not freak out with the weather."

Responding to a shareholder's question about the delays, he said: "Yes we do have the wrong kind of weather and it is the biggest cause of Railtrack delays."

A spokesman said suicides were now the fourth biggest cause of train delays at Railtrack.

Merseyrail Electric showed the worst delays with 9% fewer of its trains running on time compared with its 1999 figures.

The train companies which had the lowest percentage of trains running to time were West Coast with 82.1% and CrossCountry with 81.4%.

But the report recognised their services have been hit by the 5.8bn upgrade of the West Coast line.

Great Eastern and Cardiff Railway had the highest percentage of trains running to time at 93.6% and 93.3% respectively.

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