When rail companies say their trains are ‘on time’ - but you know they aren’t
everything started when I was glancing idly in a Southern Railway performance poster while looking forward to a delayed train. The posters are displayed round the network and proudly demonstrate how rail companies have hit their target for service performance - or at least that they have run near to it. Speculate I stared on the poster I wondered how greater than 80% of trains were supposedly running promptly, yet my experience was nothing can beat that.
Initially I thought several bad days on the trains were clouding my perception, and in reality most trains were running promptly. However it didn’t ring true, so right away of 2016 I began to help keep a record of my journeys, comparing the time I ought to have arrived at my destinations with when I actually did (or perhaps in some cases failed to).
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Between your beginning of January and mid-April I had lost greater than 24 hours due to delayed or cancelled trains. So that as I write at the begining of May, that figure is now greater than 29 hours, which doesn’t include 2 days where I couldn’t travel due to a strike. It's a proof of how badly our rail services perform and how this is masked by clever presentation of the data.
For that rail companies I personally use regularly, Southern and Thameslink, both run by Govia, the latest official public performance measure (PPM) was that 82.5% of services were on time. However when I checked out my figures the picture was very different: around 37% of services had arrived within 5 minutes of these scheduled time. Some might reason that my figures can’t show how a services are performing overall because they are to get a select few of journeys on limited routes and thus statistically irrelevant. For many people they're definitive, however they do demonstrate that my experience is nowhere near the one the rail firms say I ought to be getting. I'm certainly one of countless those who perform the same or similar journeys so we all get affected. I ponder if more of us recorded our journeys whether their data could be nearer to mine or that relating to 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 a year ago I used to be commuting 32 miles to Chichester on near-empty trains, which set me back about £1,600 a year to get a journey of approximately an hour or so door-to-door. But, to get a better job and salary, I traded it looking for the packed trains to London, increasing my journey by simply six or seven miles. However, the fare rose to only in short supply of £4,000 per year. Your way time also went up - it’s often greater than a couple of hours door-to-door, and that’s without delays. Thankfully, I generally obtain a seat most mornings, however a change at East Croydon means sitting on packed trains. You can find days when I’ve been not able to board a train as a result of overcrowding.
The times of day lost to delays are made up of a lot of snippets of time - a few minutes here and there occasionally punctured with a horrendous delay. But a minimum of with major delays there is an chance to claim compensation. Up to now in 2016 I've received about £60 from Govia for delays. This, though, is of little consolation for your constant late arrival at the office and achieving to try out catch-up. There are days when I seem like Reggie Perrin when i reel off the latest excuse distributed by the rail company if you are late. But it’s serious if this tarnishes your professional reputation: any meeting scheduled for before 9.30am sees me getting up at 5.30am simply to ensure I am going to ensure it is. As well as i quickly happen to be late once or twice.
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‘There are days I feel like Reggie Perrin’
On the journey home it’s your family who are suffering. We have four young children; if my train is delayed I won’t reach read using one of them, build a little Lego or play inside their Minecraft world. Minor things - however, not if you’re four or seven yrs . old and possess waited all day to do something with daddy.
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My spouse suffers similarly, waiting those short while more to the extra set of hands to offer her an escape. Evenings out are precious and few, but we've often overlooked trips towards the cinema because my late arrival has meant we can’t get there over time. Snippets of time, perhaps, however they are persistent and cumulatively corrosive.
Why this difference between my experience as well as the PPMs? In the first place, they don’t reflect actual passenger journeys but are instead an unrealistic method of trying to capture punctuality. “Late” for a rail company is arriving five minutes late at the destination, using what occur in between irrelevant because the measure is not taken 'till the end from the journey. Therefore if the train is running late it could skip a few stations to make it. Five minutes is a wide margin. On other national railways, including those invoved with Japan and Switzerland, the margin is slimmer for defining a train as late.
Also, the figures the rail companies give on their own posters are an aggregation across the day and the week; and so they don’t consider the amount of people using a train. So trains carrying hundreds of people could be late regularly, but trains on a single route operating late at night or at the weekend and carry just a number of passengers can arrive on time and mask the large impact of the other service failures.
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There's adequate information about compensation for cancelled and late trains in the event the delay is a lot more than 30 minutes, but can it be enough? Approximately 7% of my journeys fell to the category where I possibly could claim. But the proportion of journeys Quarter-hour late was nearly 20%.
The train companies tell us that they are undertaking immeasureable try to increase their services, only if we are able to bear together longer - but it’s a promise that appears to be perpetually dangled before us and never fulfilled. The Reggie Perrin joke is Age forty, what has evolved ever since then, with the exception of the eye-wateringly high fares, supposedly to cover the rail nirvana that never comes?
I know that doesn't every issue is inside the power over the rail companies or Network Rail. Weather brings circumstances that no quantity of preparation could handle. And then there may be the human factor: trespassers and fatalities, that are probably hardest to manage, in fact passengers are understanding about these. Overall, though, these take into account probably lower than 10% of delays, in accordance with Network Rail. In fact, other delays are inside the scope from the rail firms or Network Rail to manage.
The rail companies lack the incentive to tackle this issue, since the management of the figures is in their control. The “five minutes” on the terminus could have been acceptable inside the era of British Rail in the event it used someone having a clipboard marking off the arrival time, however in age of digital recording and data-sharing a more sophisticated measure is needed that appears at the journey as a whole. Also, thirty minutes is too long a delay for compensation being paid. Lowering the limit to fifteen minutes will mean a better possibility of suffering financial loss, so would encourage shareholders to push for much better punctuality. There also needs to be considered a weighting system for late-running trains, so the ones that inconvenience more and more passengers have a greater corresponding impact on the general figures than less busy services.
I've had enough and will be leaving my job london soon for one better home. I feel guilty for quitting only for annually, but while we are served so poorly by our railways no salary can justify the stress, exhaustion and misery that comes with a commute to London.
Response from Southern Railway
We asked Southern Railway to answer the allegations produced by Matt Steel. Inside a statement, it said: “We are sorry people features a bad time … We realize it’s been a difficult time for passengers using the constraints at London Bridge while it’s being rebuilt, and more recently using the consequences of our own ongoing industrial relations issues.
“Our performance figures … as a whole may well not reflect a person’s individual experience, and we always work hard to make improvements across the network - we don’t see the industry PPM measure as a target being achieved, but we strive to obtain every train to its destination at its published arrival time.
“It’s helpful to see your reader has noticed that there is more details available on claiming compensation for delays, and increasing numbers of claims be affected by it. However, we know that a minimum qualifying period of 15 minutes for compensation continues to be required, and this is something that the Department for Transport is considering.”
Southern added that although some trains do skip stops to make up time, it is rare and that “if this is achieved, there is nothing to gain performance measure-wise like a train that skips stops is asserted as a PPM failure - even if it does reach its destination on time”.