Thursday, August 13, 1998 Published at 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK
Train delays rise on 75% of lines
Companies must submit plans for improvements
The privatised railways are becoming less punctual, official figures show.
The number of delays increased on 48 routes this year and only declined on 16, according to the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising.
The worst companies were Thames Trains and Chiltern Railways - both serving the Thames Valley and long distance operator Great Western.
Franchising director John O'Brien called on all the rail companies to submit plans for speedy improvements.
He said: "These results continue to paint a very unsatisfactory picture of performance as a whole."
Jonathan Bray, campaigns director for pressure group Save Our Railways, said: "Our worst fears are now being confirmed about what privatisation is going to mean to passengers.
"The franchise director is right to get tough. But he should go further.
"It's time the worst offenders were given an official warning: 'Shape up, or lose your contract'."
"There are many new and exciting service improvements in place, but our punctuality has not improved enough beyond historical trends to satisfy customers."
He blamed expansion of the network as a major cause for delays.
Mr Fearnley said: "Train operators are determined to meet their customers' expectations and have action plans to improve performance.
"We will not be satisfied until we meet our customer needs for a reliable and punctual network coupled with their increasing demands for additional services."
He said he would continue to make representations to railway infrastructure company Railtrack and the train operating companies.
"Until the two of them get together and until the whole industry gets together I think we are just going to see a continuation of this deteriorating performance."
He rejected Mr Fearnley's argument that expansion of services was to blame.
"The trains are only being run in the belief that they could be run punctually."
The figures made "grim reading", said Sir Alan Greengross, chairman of the London Regional Passengers Committee.
He said: "I am horrified that this report records that, in most cases, matters are getting worse, and customer satisfaction surveys confirm that passengers are rightly displeased.
"It is totally unacceptable for many passengers in and around London to be faced with higher levels of cancellations and delays."