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Train delays at 12-year high as new timetables and bad weather hit services

7:49 pm, 17th September 2018

Severe weather and new timetables meant 14% of trains missed the industry’s Public Performance Measure (PPM) of punctuality in the 12 months to 18 August, data published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found.

The last time the annual average was worse was February 2006, when it was at 14.2%.

Trains must arrive within five minutes of their final station in London, southeast England and regional services, and within 10 minutes for long distance services to qualify as on time under the PPM.

Over the past year Britain’s railways have been hit by a series of major issues – much of it caused by the train companies themselves.

In February and March, the ‘Beast from the East’ disabled much of the network due to severe winds and snow.

There was further chaos from 20 May when new timetables were introduced, causing massive disruption in the north and southeast of England for several weeks after.

The ORR is due to publish its interim report into the cause of the timetabling problems on Thursday.

A number of other factors have also been blamed for the late trains, including delayed electrification projects in the North, poor planning by train operators and the phased introduction of new Govia Thameslink Railway services.

There is growing speculation the government will relaunch a review of the railways this week as it faces criticism of its franchising model.

Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, blamed the Tories for the “national disgrace” as he said fares are set to rise by 36% since 2010.

“Nobody should have to suffer daily delays as part of their commute, but under the Tories passengers are paying through the nose for the privilege of being crammed into late and overcrowded trains,” he said.

He accused the government of having a “blind obsession with privatisation” and claimed Labour would take the railways into public ownership.

Darren Shirley, head of the Campaign for Better Transport, called on the government and train operators to “learn from the mistakes of the recent timetable chaos”.

Head of the passenger watchdog, Transport Focus, Anthony Smith, warned reliability is the “key priority” for people who travel by train.

Robert Nisbet, regional director of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said the industry is “working hard” to be more punctual.

“We are investing billions to ease congestion, reduce delays and minimise disruption,” he said.

“We have been saying that the time is right for root and branch reform of the railway so that it can deliver more for passengers, communities, businesses and taxpayers.”