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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June 2003, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
'It's the hope I can't cope with'
With rail delays getting worse, Jon Yuill, voted by users of BBC News Online as the man to speak up for rail commuters, is close to despair.

As John Cleese so memorably said, "It's not the disappointment, it's the hope I can't cope with". So, another year, another Transport minister, another report about how things will get better. Eventually. Honestly. Just you wait and see.

But am I being too rough on the poor Darling? Have some things improved? I imagine that if one asked the passengers who use Virgin Cross-Country if things had got better you may be given some advice on sex and travel. Figures show just 67.8% of trains running on time. Punctuality as a whole is down on last year, with a fifth of all trains running late.

Fare prices? Well, there could be some hefty rises on the way, as the government doesn't want to upset taxpayers as a whole by subsidising the rail network. We wouldn't want some collective responsibility for the good of the whole country now, would we?

Elected: Jon Yuill was voted BBC News Online's rail commuters' champion by users of the site
Voice: His role is to speak up for the commuter
Commute: Married with three children, Jon commutes by train between Witham (Essex) and London
However, there is talk (let's not rush into this), of - wait for it - running longer trains! Radical stuff lads. And there's action too on improving congestion. This is to be achieved by removing hundreds of trains from the timetable. Less trains equals less congestion, although, perhaps, more over-crowding.

But being a good radical, I for one am prepared to encourage radical thinking and "going back to the drawing board" is a courageous step. And, it seems passengers agree, because something called "customer satisfaction" has also improved (I think they hold a passenger captive and beat him with rolled up timetables until he is forced to agree things have got better).

Confusingly, though, complaints per 100,000 journeys increased 8% between the first three months of 2002 and the first three months of this year. So maybe whilst there are some improvements, perhaps we are all becoming better whingers?

However, with an election in the distance, the question of just how far things have improved (remember Blair's "Judge me on my results" speech?), could soon be answered by the public rather than the statisticians.

Like weapons of mass destruction, good news for commuters can be hard to find. And when it comes to elections, people are much more likely to remember the chaos at Balham Junction than Basra Central. Let's hope the reforms are indeed radical and successful.

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