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Wednesday, August 18, 1999 Published at 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK


No let-up for train woes

Passengers are still said to be receiving a poor service

Trains are running later and becoming increasingly unreliable, according to the latest rail users' performance figures.

Click here to see a full table of results.

The BBC's Simon Montague:"Britains railways are carrying 25% more passengers since privatisation"
The Central Rail Users Consultative Committee (CRUCC) said that complaints from rail passengers have reached record levels, with 18,771 received between 1998 and 1999.

This represents an increase of 27% on the previous 12 months.

The BBC's Sophie Dekker: "The biggest problem is punctuality and reliability"
Transport minister Lord Macdonald condemned the poor punctuality and reliability figures as "unacceptable".

But he said rail services had significantly improved since February, when John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, held a summit with the rail companies and regulators.

Operators failing to meet demand

The rail watchdog measures delays and cancellations across the country, as well as the number of complaints by passengers.

The report covers every train and does not allow operators to exclude their worst days.

[ image: Virgin CrossCountry: Punctuality problems]
Virgin CrossCountry: Punctuality problems
Poor punctuality and reliability generated the most complaints. CRUCC found that 8.8% of trains were seriously delayed, while cancellations on 22 of the 25 passenger train companies rose by an average of 9%.

CRUCC chairman David Bertram said: "Too often punctuality and reliability have remained stubbornly short of target."

"Performance is simply not yet good enough over much of the network."

[ image:  ]
Complaints about overcrowding also rose sharply, with the committee noting train companies could not meet the demand for services.

There was better news about rail fares, with an average increase of 3.1% between September 1997 and September 1998 - slightly below the rate of inflation.

Lord McDonald: "We have made significant progress"
But 12 train companies had introduced above-inflation fare rises, with SuperSaver fares on Virgin West Coast rising by 15.4%.

More investment needed

The Committee did welcome the 30% reduction in complaints about the national telephone rail inquiry service, and fewer moans about penalty fares, safety and security.

[ image:  ]
But Mr Bertram expressed grave concern that Railtrack's planned £27 bn investment programme for the next 10 ears was "still without clear funding".

He said there was evidence that this had significantly contributed to delays and was stalling train operators' plans to introduce new services.

Lord Macdonald admitted that some of the £20bn total potential investment under the new rail bill - including the new trains - could be up to two years away.

David Morphet, director general of the Railway Forum, admitted it was disappointing that progress had not kept pace with the big increase in demand for rail travel.

"But, as this reports points out, investment on a major scale is the key to meeting this challenge," he said.

Performance of Train Operating Companies April 1998 - March 1999
Train Operators% Rise in Delays% Rise in Cancellations
Virgin Cross Country67196
Virgin West Coast13145
Great Western-8-12
Cardiff Railway64362
Midland Main Line15-14
Great North Eastern Railway-3178
South West Trains3946
Gatwick Express3513
Thames Trains5386
Silverlink Train Services507
Chiltern Railways87-31
Connex South Eastern-2-45
Connex South Central17-29
Thameslink Rail254
West Anglia GReat Northern-324
Wales and West Passenger Trains1261
Central Trains6140
Figures for Great Eastern not available
Source: Opraf
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