When rail companies say their trains are ‘on time’ - however you know they aren’t
it all started once 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 otherwise how they have run near it. But because I stared at the poster I wondered how a lot more than 80% of trains were supposedly running promptly, yet my experience was nothing like that.
In the beginning I figured a few bad days around the trains were clouding my perception, and actually most trains were running promptly. But it didn’t ring true, so from the beginning of 2016 I started to keep an eye on my journeys, comparing the time I will have reached my destinations with after i actually did (or even in some instances didn't).
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Between the beginning of January and mid-April I needed lost more than 24 hours because of delayed or cancelled trains. So that as I write in early May, that figure is now more than 29 hours, which doesn’t include a couple of days where I couldn’t travel because of a strike. It is a testament to how badly our rail services perform and the way this can be masked by clever presentation of the data.
For that rail companies I use regularly, Southern and Thameslink, both operated by Govia, the latest official public performance measure (PPM) was that 82.5% of services were promptly. However when I looked over my figures the picture was completely different: around 37% of services had arrived within a few minutes of the scheduled time. Some might reason that my figures can’t show how the services performing overall since they are for any small group of journeys on limited routes and therefore statistically irrelevant. That does not mean they're definitive, but they do demonstrate that my experience is nowhere nearby the one the rail firms say I will receive. I'm one of a huge selection of people who carry out the same or similar journeys so we all get affected. I ponder if really us recorded our journeys whether their data could be better mine or those of the rail companies?
I commute daily from Horsham in Sussex to London, and I usually finish my journey at London Bridge or City Thameslink. Until last year I was commuting 32 miles to Chichester on near-empty trains, which require me to pay about £1,600 per year for a journey of about an hour door-to-door. But, for any better job and salary, I traded it set for the packed trains to London, increasing my journey by just six or seven miles. However, the fare rose to only in short supply of £4,000 annually. Your way time also improved - it’s often greater than two hours door-to-door, and that’s without delays. Thankfully, I generally obtain a seat most mornings, however a change at East Croydon means standing on packed trains. You will find days when I’ve been unable to board a train because of the overcrowding.
The amount of time lost to delays comprise a lot of snippets of time - a few minutes in some places occasionally punctured by a horrendous delay. But no less than with major delays there's an opportunity to claim compensation. So far in 2016 We have received about £60 from Govia for delays. This, though, is of little consolation for that constant late arrival in the office inside them for hours to experience catch-up. There are days when I feel like Reggie Perrin while i reel off of the latest excuse distributed by the rail company for being late. But it’s quite serious if this tarnishes your professional reputation: any meeting scheduled for before 9.30am sees me waking up at 5.30am simply to ensure I'll ensure it is. As well as i then happen to be late a few times.
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‘There are days Personally i think like Reggie Perrin’
On the journey home it’s your family who are suffering. I have four young children; if my train is delayed I won’t reach read using one of them, create a little Lego or play in their Minecraft world. Minor things - although not if you’re four or seven years old and possess waited throughout the day to behave with daddy.
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My spouse suffers similarly, waiting those short while more for that extra pair of hands to provide her an escape. Evenings out are precious and few, but we now have often missed out on trips for the cinema because my late arrival has meant we can’t get there with time. Snippets of energy, perhaps, but they're persistent and cumulatively corrosive.
So just why this among my experience as well as the PPMs? To begin with, they don’t reflect actual passenger journeys but they are instead an unrealistic way of wanting to capture punctuality. “Late” for a rail company is arriving five minutes late at the destination, with what occurs in between irrelevant as the measure is not taken until the end of the journey. Therefore the train is running late it might skip several stations and make it. Five minutes is a wide margin. On other national railways, such as those in 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 over the day as well as the week; and they don’t look at the amount of people utilizing a train. So trains carrying hundreds of people may be late regularly, but trains for a passing fancy route running late into the evening or on the weekend and carry only a couple of passengers can arrive punctually and mask the large impact of the other service failures.
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There's adequate information regarding compensation for cancelled and late trains if the delay is a lot more than thirty minutes, but can it be enough? Approximately 7% of my journeys fell in to the category where I possibly could claim. Nevertheless the proportion of journeys Fifteen minutes late was nearly 20%.
The train companies reveal they are undertaking immeasureable attempt to improve their services, if only we can bear with them a little longer - but it’s a promise that seems to become perpetually dangled before us and not fulfilled. The Reggie Perrin joke is 40 years old, but what has changed ever since then, with the exception of the eye-wateringly high fares, supposedly to pay for the rail nirvana that never comes?
I know that doesn't every issue is inside control of the rail companies or Network Rail. The weather brings circumstances that no quantity of preparation could deal with. Its keep may be the human factor: trespassers and fatalities, which are probably hardest to control, in fact passengers are understanding about these. Overall, though, these are the cause of probably less than 10% of delays, in accordance with Network Rail. In fact, other delays are within the scope with the rail firms or Network Rail to handle.
The rail companies lack the incentive to tackle this problem, because the management of the figures is based on their control. The “five minutes” at the terminus might have been acceptable in the era of British Rail in the event it used someone having a clipboard marking from the arrival time, in age digital recording and data-sharing a more elaborate measure is needed seems on the journey in general. Also, 30 minutes is too long a delay for compensation to become paid. Lowering the limit to 15 minutes would mean a greater possibility of suffering financial loss, so would encourage shareholders to push for better punctuality. There also needs to be considered a weighting system for late-running trains, so the ones that inconvenience many passengers use a greater corresponding impact on the general figures than less busy services.
I've had enough and you will be leaving my job working in london soon for just one better home. I feel guilty for quitting after only a year, but while we are served so poorly by our railways no salary can justify the worries, exhaustion and misery that is included with a commute to London.
Response from Southern Railway
We asked Southern Railway to respond to the allegations made by Matt Steel. In a statement, it said: “We are sorry your reader includes a bad time … We all know 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 … in general may well not reflect a person’s individual experience, and that we continue to work tirelessly to produce improvements over the network - we don’t begin to see the industry PPM measure like a target to become achieved, but we attempt to obtain every train to its destination at its published arrival time.
“It’s good to see your reader has pointed out that there's more info on claiming compensation for delays, and increasing numbers of claims reflect this. However, we realize a minimum qualifying period of Fifteen minutes for compensation continues to be called for, and that is a thing that the Department for Transport is considering.”
Southern added that while some trains do skip stops to produce up time, it really is rare which “if this is accomplished, you'll find nothing to gain performance measure-wise like a train that skips stops is asserted being a PPM failure - even though it does reach its destination on time”.