• When rail companies say their trains are ‘on time’ - but you know they aren’t




    Train delay compensation
    it all started after i was glancing idly at a Southern Railway performance poster while waiting for 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 best that they have run near to it. Speculate I stared in the poster I wondered how greater than 80% of trains were supposedly running promptly, yet my experience was nothing like that.


    Nation Rail
    At first I believed a few bad days on the trains were clouding my perception, and actually most trains were running on time. Nevertheless it didn’t ring true, so from the beginning of 2016 I began to help keep on top of my journeys, comparing enough time I will have reached my destinations with once i actually did (or even in some instances did not).





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    Involving the beginning of January and mid-April I'd lost a lot more than 24 hours as a result of delayed or cancelled trains. So when I write at the begining of May, that figure has become a lot more than 29 hours, which doesn’t include a couple of days where I couldn’t travel as a result of strike. It's a testament to how badly our rail services perform and the way this is masked by clever presentation of the data.



    For the rail companies I take advantage of regularly, Southern and Thameslink, both run by Govia, the latest official public performance measure (PPM) was that 82.5% of services were on time. But when I checked out my figures the image was completely different: around 37% of services had arrived within 5 minutes of their scheduled time. Some might debate that my figures can’t show the way the services performing overall as they are for a limited number of journeys on limited routes and thus statistically irrelevant. That does not mean they are definitive, nevertheless they do demonstrate that my experience is nowhere near the one the rail firms say I should get. I'm certainly one of a huge selection of those who carry out the same or similar journeys so we all get affected. I wonder if really us recorded our journeys whether their data could be nearer to mine or that of the rail companies?



    I commute daily from Horsham in Sussex to London, and that i usually finish my journey at London Bridge or City Thameslink. Until this past year I was commuting 32 miles to Chichester on near-empty trains, which require me to pay about £1,600 a year for a journey of approximately one hour door-to-door. But, to get a better job and salary, I traded it set for the packed trains to London, increasing my journey just by six or seven miles. However, the fare rose to simply short of £4,000 annually. Your journey time also increased - it’s often greater 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 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 lots of snippets of energy - a few momemts in some places occasionally punctured with a horrendous delay. But at least with major delays it comes with an chance to claim compensation. To date in 2016 We have received about £60 from Govia for delays. This, though, is of little consolation for the constant late arrival in the office and having to play catch-up. You can find days once i think that Reggie Perrin when i reel from the latest excuse provided 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 getting up at 5.30am just to ensure I am going to make it. And even then I happen to be late a few times.



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     ‘There are days I'm like Reggie Perrin’

    Around the journey home it’s the household who are suffering. I've four young children; if my train is delayed I won’t arrive at read with 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 also have waited all day some thing with daddy.





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    My partner suffers similarly, waiting those couple of minutes more for that extra pair of hands to provide her a break. Evenings out are precious and few, but we have often missed out on trips for the cinema because my late arrival has meant we can’t make it happen in time. Snippets of time, perhaps, but they're persistent and cumulatively corrosive.



    So why this among my experience and the PPMs? To begin with, they don’t reflect actual passenger journeys but they are instead an unrealistic way of trying to capture punctuality. “Late” for a rail clients are arriving a few minutes late at the destination, in what occurs in between irrelevant since the is through not taken until the end of the journey. Therefore the train is running late it might skip a couple of stations to make it. 5 minutes is also a wide margin. On other national railways, including 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 the posters are an aggregation across the day as well as the week; plus they don’t take into account the number of individuals utilizing a train. So trains carrying countless people could be late regularly, but trains on a single route that run shortly before bedtime or at the weekend and carry just a number of passengers can arrive on time and mask the massive impact with the other service failures.





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    There is certainly adequate information about compensation for cancelled and late trains when the delay is much more than 30 minutes, but can it be enough? About 7% of my journeys fell into the category where I could claim. Nevertheless the proportion of journeys Fifteen minutes late was nearly 20%.



    The train companies inform us that they are undertaking immeasureable work to increase their services, if perhaps we can bear using them more time - but it’s a promise that appears being perpetually dangled in front of us and not fulfilled. The Reggie Perrin joke is 40 years old, but what has evolved since then, except for the eye-wateringly high fares, supposedly to cover the rail nirvana that never comes?



    I understand that not every problem is inside the control of the rail companies or Network Rail. The elements brings circumstances that no amount of preparation could cope with. Its keep is the human factor: trespassers and fatalities, which are probably most challenging to control, in fact passengers are understanding about these. Overall, though, these account for probably lower than 10% of delays, according to Network Rail. In reality, almost every other delays are inside scope of 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 in what they can control. The “five minutes” at the terminus could have been acceptable within the era of British Rail if this trusted someone with a clipboard marking off of the arrival time, however in the age of digital recording and data-sharing a more sophisticated measure is called for that looks at the journey overall. Also, thirty minutes is simply too long a delay for compensation to become paid. Lowering the limit to 15 minutes will mean a better possibility of suffering financial loss, so would encourage shareholders to push for much better punctuality. There also need to be considered a weighting system for late-running trains, so those that inconvenience large numbers of passengers use a greater corresponding impact on the general figures than less busy services.



    I have had enough and will be leaving my job in London soon for just one closer to home. I'm guilty for quitting for only annually, but while we are served so poorly by our railways no salary can justify the strain, exhaustion and misery that comes with a commute to London.



    Response from Southern Railway

    We asked Southern Railway to reply to the allegations made by Matt Steel. In a statement, it said: “We are sorry your reader includes a bad time … We realize it’s been difficulty for passengers with all the constraints at London Bridge while it’s being rebuilt, plus more recently with the consequences in our ongoing industrial relations issues.



    “Our performance figures … overall might not reflect a person’s individual experience, and we continue to work hard to create improvements over the network - we don’t begin to see the industry PPM measure like a target to be achieved, but we attempt to acquire every train to its destination at its published arrival time.



    “It’s good to see your reader has noticed that there is more info on claiming compensation for delays, and increasing numbers of claims be affected by it. However, we know a minimum qualifying duration of Quarter-hour for compensation has been needed, and that is a thing that the Department for Transport is considering.”



    Southern added that although some trains do skip stops to produce up time, it really is rare understanding that “if this is achieved, there is nothing to get performance measure-wise being a train that skips stops is asserted being a PPM failure - even if it does reach its destination on time”.


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