when rail organizations say their trains are ‘on time’ – however you realize they aren’t

Commuter Matt Steel at London Bridge

it all commenced whilst i used to be glancing idly at a Southern Railway overall performance poster whilst awaiting a not on time educate. The posters are displayed around the network and proudly show how rail agencies have hit their goal for service overall performance – or at least how they have run close to it. but as I stared on the poster I puzzled how extra than eighty% of trains have been supposedly jogging on time, but my experience changed into not anything like that.

at the start I notion a couple of bad days at the trains had been clouding my belief, and actually maximum trains had been running on time. however it didn’t ring genuine, so from the beginning of 2016 I began to hold a document of my journeys, evaluating the time I should have arrived at my destinations with after I absolutely did (or in a few instances failed to).
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among the beginning of January and mid-April I had lost extra than 24 hours due to behind schedule or cancelled trains. And as I write in early may also, that parent is now greater than 29 hours, which doesn’t consist of two days where I couldn’t travel due to a strike. it is a testomony to how badly our rail offerings perform and the way this is masked with the aid of clever presentation of the records.

For the rail companies i use often, Southern and Thameslink, each run by way of Govia, the today’s official public overall performance measure (PPM) became that 82.5% of offerings have been on time. however once I looked at my figures the image changed into absolutely distinct: around 37% of services had arrived inside 5 mins in their scheduled time. a few would possibly argue that my figures can’t show how the carrier is performing average as they’re for a limited number of trips on restricted routes and consequently statistically beside the point. i’m now not announcing they’re definitive, however they do display that my enjoy is nowhere near the one the rail companies say I should be getting. i am one of masses of people who do the same or similar journeys and all of us get affected. i wonder if more of us recorded our journeys whether or not their records would be towards mine or that of the rail groups?

I commute day by day from Horsham in Sussex to London, and i commonly end my adventure at London Bridge or city Thameslink. until last yr i used to be commuting 32 miles to Chichester on near-empty trains, which fee me approximately £1,600 a yr for a adventure of about an hour door-to-door. but, for a higher task and income, I traded it in for the packed trains to London, growing my journey with the aid of simply six or seven miles. but, the fare rose to simply brief of £four,000 a year. the journey time additionally went up – it’s regularly more than hours door-to-door, and that’s with out delays. thankfully, I usually get a seat maximum mornings, but a change at East Croydon way standing on packed trains. There are days when I’ve been not able to board a educate because of the overcrowding.

The hours lost to delays are made up of lots of snippets of time – a couple of minutes here and there now and again punctured through a horrendous put off. but at the least with important delays there’s an possibility to say reimbursement. to this point in 2016 i have received approximately £60 from Govia for delays. This, even though, is of little comfort for the steady past due arrival within the workplace and having to play capture-up. There are days when I feel like Reggie Perrin as I reel off the today’s excuse given by using the rail company for being late. but it’s no funny story while it tarnishes your expert popularity: any assembly scheduled for earlier than nine.30am sees me getting up at five.30am simply to make sure i can make it. or even then i’ve been past due a few times.

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‘There are days I feel like Reggie Perrin’
On the adventure domestic it’s the own family who suffer. i’ve four young kids; if my train is behind schedule I won’t get to read with one among them, construct a touch Lego or play in their Minecraft world. Minor matters – but now not in case you’re 4 or seven years antique and feature waited all day to do some thing with daddy.
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My spouse suffers further, waiting those short time more for that greater pair of fingers to present her a ruin. Evenings out are precious and few, but we’ve often overlooked out on journeys to the cinema due to the fact my past due arrival has supposed we are able to’t get there in time. Snippets of time, perhaps, but they’re continual and cumulatively corrosive.

So why this difference between my revel in and the PPMs? For a begin, they don’t mirror actual passenger journeys however are as a substitute an unrealistic way of trying to capture punctuality. “overdue” for a rail organization is arriving 5 minutes past due at your vacation spot, with what happens in among beside the point as the measure isn’t always taken till the end of the adventure. So if the educate is strolling past due it is able to bypass multiple stations and make it up. five mins is likewise a huge margin. On other countrywide railways, which include the ones in Japan and Switzerland, the margin is slimmer for defining a train as overdue.

also, the figures the rail corporations deliver on their posters are an aggregation across the day and the week; and that they don’t take into account the range of people using a educate. So trains carrying loads of human beings may be overdue regularly, but trains at the equal direction that run overdue at night time or at the weekend and deliver simplest a handful of passengers can arrive on time and masks the massive impact of the other carrier failures.
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there’s adequate facts approximately reimbursement for cancelled and overdue trains if the put off is more than half of an hour, but is it enough? just over 7% of my trips fell into the category wherein I ought to claim. however the proportion of trips 15 mins late became almost 20%.

The educate companies inform us that they’re venture large quantities of labor to improve their services, if most effective we will undergo with them a bit longer – but it’s a promise that appears to be always dangled in the front of us and in no way fulfilled. The Reggie Perrin comic story is forty years antique, but what has changed due to the fact then, except for the attention-wateringly high fares, supposedly to pay for the rail nirvana that never comes?

I recognise that not every trouble is within the manage of the rail groups or community Rail. The weather brings occasions that no quantity of practise should address. and then there may be the human thing: trespassers and fatalities, which are in all likelihood maximum hard to control, but commonly passengers are expertise approximately those. standard, though, those account for possibly much less than 10% of delays, in line with network Rail. In reality, maximum different delays are inside the scope of the rail firms or network Rail to control.

The rail organizations lack the inducement to address this issue, because the control of the figures lies of their manage. The “five minutes” on the terminus could have been appropriate within the technology of British Rail whilst it relied on someone with a clipboard marking off the advent time, however inside the age of digital recording and records-sharing a greater state-of-the-art measure is referred to as for that looks at the adventure as an entire. also, half an hour is too lengthy a delay for repayment to be paid. lowering the restriction to 15 minutes might mean a more hazard of suffering monetary loss, so could inspire shareholders to push for higher punctuality. There also wishes to be a weighting gadget for late-jogging trains, so those that inconvenience large numbers of passengers have a more corresponding effect on the overall figures than much less busy offerings.

i have had enough and can be leaving my activity in London soon for one toward home. I feel responsible for quitting after only a 12 months, however at the same time as we are served so poorly by our railways no revenue can justify the strain, exhaustion and misery that incorporates a commute to London.

reaction from Southern Railway
We requested Southern Railway to reply to the allegations made through Matt metallic. In a statement, it said: “we’re sorry your reader has a terrible time … We realize it’s been a difficult time for passengers with the limitations at London Bridge whilst it’s being rebuilt, and extra recently with the consequences of our ongoing industrial members of the family troubles.

“Our performance figures … as an entire may not reflect someone’s individual experience, and we retain to paintings tough to make enhancements throughout the community – we don’t see the industry PPM degree as a target to be completed, but we try to get each educate to its destination at its published arrival time.

“It’s good to look your reader has observed that there may be more records available on claiming compensation for delays, and increasing numbers of claims reflect this. but, we know that a minimum qualifying time of 15 mins for compensation has been referred to as for, and that is something that the department for shipping is considering.”

Southern introduced that while some trains do pass stops to make up time, it is rare and that “if this is performed, there may be nothing to gain overall performance measure-wise as a educate that skips stops is declared as a PPM failure – despite the fact that it does reach its destination on time”.