Trains made more punctual - by axing stop

Southern Rail finds a way to hit targets

Updated: 
London train station stock
Southern Rail believes it can improve the punctuality of its Brighton to London Victoria line.

Good news for commuters, you might think: after all, the 7.29am train was late arriving on every single journey it made last year, despite the £5,000 cost of a season ticket.

But the rail company has now found a novel way of hitting its targets: miss out a station, and add an extra three minutes to the advertised journey time.

The 7.29 starts off as a stopping train, before reaching Gatwick Airport and becoming the non-stop Gatwick Express to Victoria - arriving at 8.35am (in theory). But from next Monday, it will no longer stop at Wivelsfield in mid-Sussex, and isn't scheduled to reach London until 8.38am, after a one-hour, nine-minute journey.

Wivelsfield commuters will see the next train, too, race by without stopping, while the 6.56am Brighton to London Victoria train will be scrapped.

"We have done this to improve the punctuality of other services on the line," explains Southern Rail.

"We run our services on an increasingly congested network. Over the years as more and more people travel into London, train operators have added more and longer trains to the timetable and previous infrastructure upgrades have proved to be insufficient to cope with the growth in railway traffic."

Customers, though, are unappreciative of the changes.

"Are Southern Rail UK massaging performance stats for Britain's worst rail service, the 7.29am Brighton to London?" tweets one.

One suggests: "...because being late costs you & @networkrail money, whilst forcing 'customers' on to overcrowded trains doesn't?"

And another adds: "And this is why Southern are the WORST rail company in the UK - dishonest and lazy."

It is possible to get compensation if your train is late arriving - but operators are only obliged to give a 20% refund if a train is at least an hour late.

Many, though, are more generous, with First TransPennine Express, Heathrow Express, Merseyrail and London Overground all offering a full refund for a 30 minute delay.

Southern Rail itself gives a 50% refund for journeys that are half an hour late, or 100% when it's more than an hour - there's a form here. This, though, is little comfort for passengers on the 7.29am, which usually manages to scrape in within that time.

Inside The Old Station in Allerston, North Yorkshire

Inside The Old Station in Allerston, North Yorkshire

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