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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Rail network 'still unreliable'
Train delays
Punctuality is worse than before the Hatfield crash
Train services are slowly improving but are still not as reliable as they were before the Hatfield rail crash, latest figures show.

Just 80.9% of trains ran on time between January and March this year, according to figures by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA).

That is a marked improvement on the previous quarter, when only 71.3% of trains were on time.

Trains on time
Most: Island Line (96%)
Average: 80.9%
Least: GNER (69.2%)
23 of 25 train companies had improved
Most improved: Connex South Eastern (16%)

But it still means one in five trains is late - only marginally up on the period shortly after the October 2000 crash, when one in four trains were late because of numerous speed restrictions.

And it is much worse than the period before the crash, where only about one in 10 trains ran late.

'Good news'

Richard Bowker, chairman of the SRA, told BBC News the figures painted a picture of a slowly improving industry, but he hoped there was more to come.

"It is encouraging, we're seeing performance moving in the right direction, but there's absolutely no complacency. There's a huge amount to do."

Click here to see each train company's performance

"The entire industry [is] working together in a way it's never really worked together before since privatisation. There's an enormous amount of focus."

Philip Benham of the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said the figures were "going in the right direction" following a difficult period for the railways.

"I don't think we should underestimate the scale of the problems faced following Hatfield - we've really had a tremendous job to bring back reliability and punctuality.

"Certainly we're not complacent, we still have a tremendous amount to do, but it's encouraging not only for the industry but also for passengers."

Prices Jan 2001-2002
Overall, up by 2%
Standard class up 1.5%
First class up 6%
In London and SE down 0.1%
Regional up 2%
Long-distance and high-speed up 5.1%
Inflation: 1.3%

Alistair Darling, the new Secretary of State for Transport, also said he was "pleased" but wanted more.

"There is though a very long way to go to achieve the levels of performance and reliability we all want."

BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds said the problem was partly the fault of the train companies, with trains breaking down, and partly due to continued problems with the track itself which would have to be addressed by Railtrack's successor.

He said the SRA was doing a lot of work to try to improve the situation, particularly in bringing the train companies together "to make the whole thing run more smoothly".

However, passengers pointed out that train travel could still be fairly miserable.

One London-Brighton commuter told BBC News: "My main frustration is not being told what's going on. When the train's late you're not told the reason, or you're even told different reasons by different people, and you just get frustrated."

Another, giving his impression of the trains he used, said: "Overcrowded, unreliable, dirty... all the rest of it."

Overcrowding

Despite that, a second report by the SRA suggested passengers overall were becoming a little happier with the service they received.

Passenger satisfaction ratings
Highest: Island Line (92%) and Anglia (90%)
Lowest: WAGN and South West Trains (64%)
It found 73% were satisfied with their train journey on the day they were questioned, compared with 69% this time last year.

Passengers were most happy with Island Line and Anglia, and least happy with WAGN and South West Trains.

Overcrowding on London routes, although improved on eight of the 10 operators, was still a problem, said the SRA.

Four operators - Silverlink, South West Trains, Thameslink and South Central - were still exceeding overcrowding levels.

As for prices, the SRA showed a steady increase in prices on the train network as a whole.

Caps meant cheaper tickets for commuters in the south-east, but overall fares were up by 2% - higher than the rate of inflation.


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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Simon Montague
"Three out of 10 peak time trains are delayed"
Strategic Rail Authority chairman, Richard Bowker
"Sustained improvement will take time"
BBC News Online's in-depth coverage on the state of the UK's railways


10 year rail plan

1,000 MILE RAIL TRIP
See also:

01 Jun 02 | England
26 May 02 | UK Politics
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