Page last updated at 07:59 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Railway delays 'cost 1bn a year'

Commuters on train
Increased congestion means delays have more impact, MPs say

Delays on the UK's rail network cost passengers an estimated 1bn in lost time every year, MPs have said.

The Public Accounts Committee said 90% of journeys were on time, but increased network congestion made disruption worse when any problems occurred.

Chairman Edward Leigh said passengers were "rightly angered" over delays.

The committee also found that rescue services did not always know how to contact Network Rail and that parts of the network had no mobile phone signal.

Informed staff

In 2006/07 passengers paid 5.1bn in fares and the Department for Transport gave an additional 3.4bn to Network Rail and 1.7bn to train operating companies.

Even if the driver or guard doesn't know what is going on, an announcement to that effect is reassuring
Edward Leigh MP

Mr Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, said: "The fire and rescue services often do not know whom to contact and can take decisions without knowing what the effect will be on passengers elsewhere.

"This is not the best way to manage rail incidents to minimise disruption on the network. At the very least the emergency services should always know whom to phone."

The committee said relationships between the rail industry and the emergency services were "fragmented" and recommended the government should play a more active role in bringing together the industry, emergency services and other officials, such as coroners.

Mr Leigh said: "Rail passengers pay handsomely to travel on trains and yet, through incidents on the network, are still suffering expensive delays.

"Passengers are rightly angered when their train comes to a halt for a lengthy period and nobody in the train crew can give them any information.

"Even if the driver or guard doesn't know what is going on, an announcement to that effect is reassuring."

Anthony Smith, chief executive of customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers have told us repeatedly that having informed staff on the train and on the platform is their main concern during disruption.

"Our research shows that some operators, such as Virgin Trains and Merseyrail, are better at communicating with passengers at these times, but there are lessons for the whole industry to be learned."

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