When rail companies say their trains are ‘on time’ - however you know they aren’t
all of it started once i was glancing idly in a Southern Railway performance poster while awaiting a delayed train. The posters are displayed across the network and proudly demonstrate how rail companies have hit their target for service performance - or at least how they have run near to it. But as I stared in the poster I wondered how more than 80% of trains were supposedly running promptly, yet my experience was nothing like that.
In the beginning I figured a couple of bad days on the trains were clouding my perception, and actually most trains were running on time. But it didn’t ring true, so right away of 2016 I started to maintain an eye on my journeys, comparing time I ought to have attained my destinations with when I actually did (or in certain cases didn't).
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Between the start of January and mid-April I needed lost greater than Twenty four hours due to delayed or cancelled trains. And as I write in early May, that figure is currently greater than 29 hours, which doesn’t include 2 days where I couldn’t travel due to a strike. It's a testament to how badly our rail services perform and the way this really is masked by clever presentation from the data.
For your rail companies I take advantage of regularly, Southern and Thameslink, both run by Govia, the most recent official public performance measure (PPM) was that 82.5% of services were promptly. However, if I looked over my figures the picture was different: around 37% of services had arrived within five minutes of their scheduled time. Some might debate that my figures can’t show the way the service is performing overall as they are for any small group of journeys on limited routes and thus statistically irrelevant. For many people they are definitive, however they do show that my experience is nowhere close to the one the rail firms say I will get. I am one of a huge selection of those who perform the same or similar journeys and that we all get affected. I ponder if much more of us recorded our journeys whether their data will be nearer to mine or those of the rail companies?
I commute daily from Horsham in Sussex to London, and i also usually finish my journey at London Bridge or City Thameslink. Until this past year I used to be commuting 32 miles to Chichester on near-empty trains, which require me to pay about £1,600 a year to get a journey of about an hour or so door-to-door. But, to get a better job and salary, I traded it in for the packed trains to London, increasing my journey by just six or seven miles. However, the fare rose to just in short supply of £4,000 a year. Your way time also increased - it’s often more than 2 hours door-to-door, and that’s without delays. Thankfully, I generally obtain a seat most mornings, however a change at East Croydon means located on packed trains. You will find days when I’ve been unable to board a train as a result of overcrowding.
The hours lost to delays comprise a lot of snippets of your time - a couple of minutes in some places occasionally punctured with a horrendous delay. But no less than with major delays it comes with an opportunity to claim compensation. To date in 2016 I have received about £60 from Govia for delays. This, though, is of little consolation for your constant late arrival at the office and having to play catch-up. You can find days once i feel like Reggie Perrin while i reel off of the latest excuse distributed by the rail company for being late. But it’s no joke when it tarnishes your professional reputation: any meeting scheduled for before 9.30am sees me waking up at 5.30am simply to ensure I am going to allow it to be. And also i then happen to be late a few times.
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‘There are days I feel like Reggie Perrin’
On the journey home it’s the household who are suffering. I have four young children; if my train is delayed I won’t reach read and among them, build a little Lego or play in their Minecraft world. Minor things - but not if you’re four or seven yrs . old and also have waited throughout the day to behave with daddy.
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My spouse suffers similarly, waiting those few minutes more to the extra pair of hands to provide her a rest. Evenings out are precious and few, but we've often overlooked trips to the cinema because my late arrival has meant we can’t arrive in time. Snippets of your time, perhaps, but they are persistent and cumulatively corrosive.
So why this distinction between my experience and also the PPMs? For a start, they don’t reflect actual passenger journeys but are instead an unrealistic method of attempting to capture punctuality. “Late” for any rail clients are arriving 5 minutes late at your destination, with what occurs in between irrelevant as the is through not taken 'till the end with the journey. Therefore if the train is running late it could skip several stations making it. Five minutes is also a wide margin. On other national railways, for example those who work in Japan and Switzerland, the margin is slimmer for defining a train as late.
Also, the figures the rail companies give on their posters are an aggregation across the day and the week; and they don’t consider the number of people employing a train. So trains carrying countless people may be late regularly, but trains for a passing fancy route that run shortly before bedtime or in the weekend and carry just a couple of passengers can arrive on time and mask the huge impact from the other service failures.
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There's adequate information regarding compensation for cancelled and late trains if the delay is more than thirty minutes, but can it be enough? About 7% of my journeys fell in to the category where I really could claim. However the proportion of journeys Fifteen minutes late was nearly 20%.
The train companies reveal they are undertaking huge amounts of try to increase their services, only if we could bear together a little longer - but it’s a promise that seems being perpetually dangled in front of us rather than fulfilled. The Reggie Perrin joke is Age forty, but what has changed since then, except for the eye-wateringly high fares, supposedly to fund the rail nirvana that never comes?
I understand that not every concern is inside control of the rail companies or Network Rail. The elements brings circumstances that no level of preparation could handle. And then there will be the human factor: trespassers and fatalities, which are probably hardest to handle, in fact passengers are understanding about these. Overall, though, these account for probably less than 10% of delays, in accordance with Network Rail. The truth is, almost every other delays are inside the scope with the rail firms or Network Rail to manage.
The rail companies lack the incentive to tackle this issue, because the management of the figures lies in their control. The “five minutes” at the terminus might have been acceptable in the era of British Rail when it used someone using a clipboard marking off of the arrival time, but in age digital recording and data-sharing a more elaborate measure is required that appears on the journey in general. Also, 30 minutes is just too long a delay for compensation being paid. Decreasing the limit to 15 minutes will mean a greater chance of suffering financial loss, so would encourage shareholders to push for better punctuality. There also need to be considered a weighting system for late-running trains, so the ones that inconvenience large numbers of passengers possess a greater corresponding impact on the overall figures than less busy services.
I have had enough and you will be leaving my job in London soon for just one better home. I feel guilty for quitting only for per year, but while we're served so poorly by our railways no salary can justify the worries, exhaustion and misery that accompany a commute to London.
Response from Southern Railway
We asked Southern Railway to respond to the allegations created by Matt Steel. Inside a statement, it said: “We are sorry the various readers features a bad time … We realize it’s been difficulty for passengers using the constraints at London Bridge while it’s being rebuilt, plus more recently using the consequences of our ongoing industrial relations issues.
“Our performance figures … as a whole may well not reflect a person’s individual experience, and we still work tirelessly to make improvements over the network - we don’t see the industry PPM measure being a target to be achieved, but we strive to acquire every train to its destination at its published arrival time.
“It’s helpful to see your reader has noticed that there is certainly more details on claiming compensation for delays, and increasing numbers of claims be affected by it. However, we realize that a minimum qualifying period of 15 minutes for compensation has been called for, which is a thing that the Department for Transport is considering.”
Southern added that although some trains do skip stops to produce up time, it is rare which “if this is done, you'll find nothing to gain performance measure-wise being a train that skips stops is asserted being a PPM failure - even when it will reach its destination on time”.