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Last Updated: Friday, 12 December, 2003, 06:27 GMT
Do the railways deserve more money?
Rail regulator Tom Winsor live on Breakfast
Tom Winsor holds the purse strings
The company in charge of Britain's railway tracks - Network Rail - is to get an extra 22bn over the next five years.

The money has been approved by the Rail Regulator - and he says it's the amount needed to make the system work properly.

Tom Winsor came in to the Breakfast studio to explain why he's being so generous with tax and fare payers' cash. A recording of our interview will be available shortly.

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    Yesterday, the Strategic Rail Authority reported that long distance rail delays were up 5% over the summer.

    Inter-city services were hit as speed limits were introduced to stop buckled rails derailing trains, the Strategic Rail Authority announced on Thursday.

    Despite these problems there was a 4.4% improvement in punctuality by regional operators between July and September.

    Overall, eight out of 10 of trains ran on time over the three month period, the same total as last year.

    Significant problems

    The "on-time" figure fell 7% for long-distance operators and 3% for London and south-east England train companies, the SRA said.

    As fares go up, the service that passengers get is not improving so why should they pay more?
    Rail Passengers' Council

    The most significant problems were on Midland Mainline services between London, the East Midlands and Yorkshire.

    The train operator was the worst performing company, with 63% of trains on time, compared to 80% last year.

    A third of trains operated by Virgin West Coast and First Great Western also ran late.

    The best performing company, apart from the tiny Isle of Wight operator Island Line, was Merseyrail with 94% of trains running on time.


    Thursday's performance figures follow the announcement that some passengers are facing fare rises of up to 9% in the New Year.

    Train companies and the government said the increases would be necessary to pay for much needed improvements.

    1. Island Line (96.7%)
    2. Merseyrail (94.2%)
    3. Chiltern (89.0%)
    1. Midland Mainline (62.9%)
    2. Virgin West Coast (65.3%)
    3. First Great Western (65.8%)
    (Based on % of trains on time)
    But passenger watchdogs are angry that customers are being asked to pay up-front for improvements, which they have yet to see a sign of.

    Rail Passengers' Council chairman Stewart Francis said: "As fares go up, the service that passengers get is not improving so why should they pay more?

    "Passengers want to know when their service is going to get better and by how much."

    'Improvements needed'

    Rail leaders, too, are increasingly concerned about the growing number of delays caused by problems with tracks or signals.

    SRA chairman Richard Bowker said the rail industry must strive to improve the static overall performance figures.

    He said: "We need to be ruthless in pursuit of improvement and change on behalf of the railway's customers."

    Complaints per 100,000 journeys decreased by 17%, but overall satisfaction with the reliability and punctuality of trains, measured from autumn 2002 to this autumn, fell by 5%.

    The overall performance figure remains static and we need to be ruthless in pursuit of improvement and change on behalf of the railway's customers

    Satisfaction levels were lowest for Silverlink and Thameslink, both with 64%.

    The highest-rated company was Gatwick Express with nine out of 10 passengers satisfied.

    Midland Mainline had the biggest fall in satisfaction levels - down 9%.

    The results follow a rail passengers' conference in London on Wednesday at which Transport Secretary Alistair Darling warned the rail industry must provide better services and "treat people as valued customers".

    He said there were improvements, but more choice and reliable, comfortable trains were essential.

    His comments came as a survey by YouGov for the Rail Passengers Council showed growing pessimism among users.

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