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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Good news on the trains shock
As train punctuality improves, Jon Yuill, the rail commuters' champion chosen by readers of this website, for once has the chance to look on the bright side.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle didn't have the Clacton line in mind when he uttered these sentiments, but excellence, or at least an attitude of "we will do better" is certainly bearing fruit on our railways.

WHO IS JON YUILL?
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
Indeed, I was only muttering to a travelling companion last week that we hadn't experienced any major trouble commuting for some time. Suffice to say, we then sat stationary behind a broken down freight train for almost two hours with only one announcement from the driver.

Regular readers will know that, cynic that I am, I also give praise where it's due, and, it seems, praise is certainly due to Network Rail, which has just announced that delays have been cut by 16%. This may not sound much, but is the equivalent to 2.2 million passenger minutes, which just goes to show the amount of time wasted by passengers.

Better relationships

Punctuality, along with safety, are the two key areas of concern when it comes to us commuters. And it has to be said, like others, I have encountered fewer delays in recent weeks. One of the reasons why Network Rail say they have been able to deliver this improvement, is a better working relationships with other train companies.

What frequently amazes and frustrates commuters is the obvious lack of co-operation. I have often heard train drivers announce, "I'd like to tell you why we are being held here, but the signalman won't speak to me".

So what they are really saying is, one company, with a direct line of accountability, works better than lots of smaller ones. No surprise there then, except don't expect the word 're-nationalisation' to be uttered this side of an election.

Investment

There are, of course, many improvements still to be made. The old chestnut of INFORMATION is as relevant now as it always has been. And the movement of freight at peak times seems totally wrong, especially when it's the freight trains that appear to break down so frequently.

As we have seen, improvements come from investment, and in Britain Plc, train companies will look anywhere for extra revenue. It would be a great shame if such things as the proposed introduction of on-board TV screens undermine the improvements achieved by Network Rail. But by and large, commuters everywhere will welcome the better performance, even though the overall picture is still not as good as pre-Hatfield.

Maybe it's an indication of just how poor performance has been that we are grateful for any improvement. So keep it up. It may not be excellence, but it's a pretty good start.


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