The poor reputation of Britain’s railways took a further dip when new figures revealed the worst punctuality figures for more than 12 years.
They showed that 14 per cent of trains were late in the 12 months to August this year, as defined by the Industry’s Public Performance Measure (PPM) tables – the worst showing since February 2006.
Under the PPM, trains must arrive within five minutes of their scheduled time in London, the southeast and on regional services and within ten minutes for long distance routes to qualify as ‘on time’.
The new figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) cover a period when severe weather – including the ‘Beast from the East’ – and the introduction of new timetables caused disruption across the country.
Other contributory factors were electrification works running behind schedule in the north of England, poor planning by operators and Govia Thameslink’s new service schedule.
The new figures come amid controversy over continued hikes in rail fares and Labour calls for the railways to be nationalised.
They have said they will make it a key pledge in their next manifesto.
Fares have risen by around 36 per cent since 2010 while reliability on many networks has worsened, leading to calls for a Government review of the rail franchise system.
Labour shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald accused the Conservatives of being ‘obsessed’ with privatisation.
He said his party would take the railways back into public ownership if it won the next General Election.
Anthony Smith, boss of passenger watchdog Transport Focus said that reliability is the number one priority for rail passengers.
Robert Nisbet, regional director of the Rail Delivery Group, which speaks for the rail industry, said their members were working hard to improve punctuality.
The industry says it is investing billions over the coming years in new infrastructure, electrification and rolling stock.