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Worst train delays for 12 years

A crowd at
station PIC: REX

PUNCTUALITY on Britain’s railways hit a 12-year low amid chaos brought by spells of severe weather and the introduction of new timetables, latest figures show.

One in seven trains was late in the year to August — the worst record since February 2006 — the Office of Rail and Road revealed yesterday.

It comes as transport secretary Chris Grayling prepares to launch a review of the way the railways are run.

With fares due to rise 3.2 per cent in January, Which? said public trust in the industry had hit an ‘all-time low’.

Peter Vicary-Smith, the consumer group’s chief executive, said: ‘These statistics are damning but unsurprising given a year of delays and cancellations that have left many passengers at their wits’ end. We’ve shared hundreds of stories with the regulator — including from people who have frequently missed their children’s bedtimes and faced losing jobs as a result of the chaos.

‘It is vital that the outcome of any inquiry or review reflects the needs and experiences of passengers.’

The figures show 14 per cent of trains were officially late — delayed by at least five minutes, or ten minutes on long-distance routes.

The harsh weather brought by the ‘beast from the east’ winter storms was to blame for crippling parts of the network in February and March.

But a major part was also played by the botched introduction of new timetables in May, which caused hundreds of cancellations of Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway trains.

The ORR is also expected to cite delayed electrification projects in the North when it publishes its full report on the delays on Thursday. Bruce Williamson, of passenger group Rail Future, said blame for the timetable problems had to go ‘right to the top’.

He added: ‘There was no excuse for it. It was bad planning and blame has to go to Chris Grayling and the Department of Transport.’

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators, said it was investing billions to ‘ease congestion, reduce delays and minimise disruption’.

‘The industry is working hard to deliver its long-term plan to drive better punctuality so that more services arrive on time,’ said director Robert Nisbet.

‘We have been saying that the time is right for root and branch reform.’