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Train punctuality reaches all time record high

06/11/2009 AT 07:45

Back in 2002, when Network Rail took control of Britain's Rail infrastructure, train performance was languishing at record low levels (78.6%). Working closely with train operators, accompanied by high levels of investment and attention to detail, train punctuality has been pushed up every year, and for the first time ever, over the course of the last twelve months (1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009), has reached and exceeded the 90% mark.

April 2009 was a record month in its own right with 93.5% of trains arriving on time over the course of the month - the highest ever recorded.

Robin Gisby, director of operations and customer service, said: "Passengers are today experiencing the most punctual train service ever provided on Britain's railways. This has been accomplished through the sheer hard work and determination of tens of thousands of rail staff across the country working for both Network Rail and the train operators.

"But we are far from complacent and realise that passengers' still experience some delays, albeit less often than in times past. Our focus in the years ahead will be to drive performance to even higher levels with particularly attention given to reducing the number of very late services."

This record performance was delivered with well over a million more trains per year running on the rail network today compared to the days of Railtrack and British Rail.

Alec McTavish, director of policy and operations at the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: “Delivering the best ever level of punctuality is a significant achievement by all parts of the rail industry, particularly as we ran an additional one million more timetabled trains last year than British Rail did just before privatisation. Looking forward, our priority must now be to narrow the differences in performance across different services and achieve a more consistent delivery across the whole network."

To deliver the improvements in performance Network Rail has implemented several key strategies since 2004 including:
- bringing maintenance in-house in 2004 from seven private contracting companies
- the targeted renewal of unreliable infrastructure (such as track, signals, embankments, tunnels and bridges) to improve the underlying condition of railway assets
- timetabling improvements enabling more trains to run on time across the network

Over the past five years (Network Rail's last funding period, called control period 3 –CP3, 2004-2009), every train operator on Britain's railways has seen their performance improve. Most have seen dramatic improvement such at First Transpennine Express (74.6% to 90.3%), Arriva Trains Wales (80.2% to 93.1%), Crosscountry (78% to 90.1%), South West Trains (82.1% to 93.1%), East Midlands Trains (78.9% to 89.3%) and London Midland (76.4% to 86.5%).

Over the past year only two operators have seen their train punctuality noticeably fall, Virgin Trains and London Midland as a result of the disruption caused by the completion of the £9bn project to upgrade the West Coast main line.

Network Rail this week took decisive action to improve train performance on the route with the creation of a new specialist maintenance team at the southern end of the route tasked with improving the reliability of the infrastructure. Some of the company's best engineers from across the country are being used to create this new team as the company focuses efforts on pushing performance levels on this key route back towards 90%.

Performance has improved on the West Coast Main Line since 2004 with London Midland moving its annual punctuality from 76.4% to 86.5% and Virgin Trains from 72.1% to 80%, but these levels still lag behind other operators.

Network Rail is also publishing for the first time detailed, timely, performance data by franchise operator. Train punctuality for period one (1 April to 2 May 2009) appears in the tables below. This will become a regular four-weekly report on train performance across the network.

Train performance during period one, 09/10 reached 93.5% a record high for any period since records began almost 20 years ago. This is up from period 13³, 08/09 - 92.7% and up on period one³ last year (08/09) - 93.1%.

Six operators saw their performance significantly move (more then two percentage points), National Express East Coast (up 6.1 percentage points to 90.3% from 84.2%), Virgin Trains (down 5.1 percentage points to 80.3% from 85.4%), East Midlands Trans (up 3.5 percentage points to 94.3% from 90.8), First Great Western (up 3.1 percentage points to 93.7% from 90.6%), Southeastern (up 2.2 percentage points to 94.7% from 92.5%) and South West Trains (up 2.1 percentage points to 94.8% from 92.7%).

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