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Thursday, September 16, 1999 Published at 00:33 GMT 01:33 UK


Rail performance 'still patchy'

Trains were slightly more reliable over the spring months

British trains have recently become slightly more reliable and punctual, the latest official figures show.

The Shadow Strategic Rail Authority (SSRA), which assesses the 25 UK rail companies every quarter, said the quarter ending July 1999 showed a slight upturn in performance.

The BBC's Tom Heap: "The real test will be keeping up the quality through the rigours of winter"
However, the figures showed that delays are still getting worse year on year, with delays to passenger trains up 5% on the previous 12-month period, and 8.2% up on two years ago.

The SSRA said it was too early to talk about a turnaround in service, saying that it would wait to see how the companies performed in winter.

Ranked by achievement

The SSRA assessed the companies on punctuality, reliability and the number of rush hours trains running, and ranked them A to E according to their achievment.

[ image: Connex: Mid-table ranking]
Connex: Mid-table ranking
As in March, the only line to get 'A' status this time around was the Isle of Wight's Island line.

But Thursday's figures showed fewer companies in the bottom grades than before, with Silverlink, Virgin West Coast, Cardiff Railway and Virgin CrossCountry the only ones getting D and E.

North Western Trains had jumped two categories to category B.

The improved performance was given a cautious welcome by Lord Macdonald, Minister for Transport.

"The latest figures show promising signs...but it is still early days," he said. "The overall picture remains patchy with performance in some cases still worse than last year.

"We want to see fewer late and cancelled trains, not just in the more favourable summer months."

Silverlink cancels most

[ image: Richard Branson's Virgin West Coast: Bottom category]
Richard Branson's Virgin West Coast: Bottom category
Virgin had the biggest number of delays over the last year, with Virgin's CrossCountry, West Coast Scottish and West Coast North West routes topping the delay list.

Silverlink's North London Lines had the largest number of cancellations over the last year.

The passenger watchdog said there was still a long way to go before travellers get the service to which they are entitled.

"Too many train operators are still failing too many of their passengers too often," said the Central Rail Users Consultative Committee.

"We welcome every improvement, but its simply not good enough any longer for isolated pockets of the country to benefit from the type of service that we should all be enjoying."

    How the companies ranked for reliability, punctuality and number of rush-hour trains:

  • Category A
    Island Line

    Category B
    ScotRail, Merseyrail Electrics, Central Trains, Wales and West, Anglia Railways, North Western Trains, West Anglia Great Northern

  • Category C
    LTS Rail, Northern Spirit, Midland Mainline, South West Trains, Connex South Central, Great Eastern, Gatwick Express, Chiltern Railways, Great North Eastern Railway, Great Western Trains, Thameslink, Thames Trains, Connex South Eastern

  • Category D
    Silverlink, Virgin West Coast

  • Category E
    Cardiff Railway, Virgin CrossCountry

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