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 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.
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
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."