Four million hours lost due to significantly delayed trains in 2018 – report

Rail passengers lost an estimated four million hours to significantly delayed trains in 2018, according to new analysis.

The “staggering” level of delays – some 3.9 million hours – relate to 8.1 million passenger journeys, a report by consumer group Which? stated.

A train is classed as being significantly late if it is delayed by at least 29 minutes.

Around 80 trains per day fell into this category last year, with a further 660 cancelled.

It was the highest figure for cancellations since comparable records began in 2011.

The research – based on analysis of Office of Rail and Road data – was published on the first working day since new train timetables were introduced.

Passenger groups urged the industry to learn the lessons of May 2018, when new timetables led to chaos on large parts of the network.

Reliability in 2018 was plagued by a number of problems in addition to the timetable changes, including extreme weather, strikes and signalling failures.

Transpennine Express and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) accounted for the highest cancellation rates as a proportion of their total services, at 10% and 7% respectively, out of 13 franchises analysed by Which?.

Joint figures for London North Eastern Railway and its predecessor Virgin Trains East Coast show they had the highest rate of significantly delayed trains last year at 5%.

Which? claimed the poor performance – coupled with its research that 36% of passengers do not claim delay compensation when they are eligible – demonstrates the need for payouts to be made automatically.

The group’s head of campaigns Neena Bhati said: “Passengers have faced a torrid time on the trains since the beginning of last year where the rail industry has fundamentally failed on punctuality and reliability.

“People then face a messy and complex compensation system which puts them off claiming when things go wrong.

“A vital way the Government’s Rail Review and industry can start to restore faith is by introducing automatic compensation for delays and cancellations so that passengers don’t have to fight to get the money they are owed.”

A separate analysis shows that full or part-cancellations by Northern resulted in the firm’s trains not calling at more than a quarter of a million scheduled stops in the past 12 months.

Data recorded by the Northern Fail App – launched by a frustrated commuter at the height of last year’s timetable chaos – shows a train failed to stop at a station as scheduled on 258,266 occasions from May 2018 to May 2019.

Robert Nisbet, regional director of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We know that services on some routes weren’t good enough last year and rail companies are working together to improve punctuality and tackle delays across the country.

“Train companies want to make it simple and easy for customers to claim compensation if they’ve experienced a delay.

“Half of the franchises managed by the Department for Transport pay compensation after 15 minutes and some operators have introduced automatic refunds, helping claims to increase by 80% over the last two years.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said the Rail Review is “focused on reforms to put passengers at the heart of the railway and will consider all submissions closely”.