Should the definition of "late" be more strict?

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PaxVobiscum

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-18123911

MSPs call for crackdown on late Scottish trains

MSPs have called for a crackdown on late-running trains by bringing in tougher rules.

Services are currently allowed to arrive up to 10 minutes after stated times, before they are classed as late.

But this threshold should be cut to one minute, the Scottish Parliament's infrastructure committee has said.

The cross-party committee, which has been looking into the state of rail services, said the current rules were causing a headache for passengers.

Currently, local trains are described as on-time if they arrive at their destination within a five-minute threshold, increasing to 10 minutes for long-distance services.

In its report, the Holyrood committee said train operating companies already planned for "right-time scheduling", but added: "The committee considers these thresholds do not adequately reflect the difficulties and inconvenience caused to passengers who are on trains that arrive late but still within the relevant threshold.

"The committee, therefore, recommends the thresholds should be reduced, on a phased basis if necessary, so that a train will be considered on-time only if it arrives within a minute of its timetabled target."

The report came ahead of the expiry of the £1.5bn contract to run Scottish rail services, in mid-2014.
Is it possible to run trains to within one minute of advertised times on the current rail infrastructure? Would it make that much of a difference to most of us anyway?
 
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Schnellzug

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I think that sounds rather pernickety (I was trying to think of the word, actually I think it's pedantic, but pernickety's a good one). It's only in the world of the Railways that people get so obssessive about whether it's one minute late. With anything else, you'd say "well, we should get there about twelvish", don't they, not "we will get there at 1158", and if it's 1200 they rarely get indignant. Obviously for internal purposes the Railways run to precise timings, but I mean from the point of view of the ordinary person in the street.
 

WelshBluebird

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I think to the minute is too fine, but ten minutes certainly is way too much (think of connections and stuff, I would hardly claim the train is "on time" if someone misses a legitimate connection because the train was not actually on time).
 

Tringonometry

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If you *only* measure lateness to the minute then you'll probably show half of all trains as being late. As a result you can't usefully use those figures in isolation as a measure of performance because there's so much variation in the late half. Effectively, everything from one minute to two hours late will be in the same bucket.

The current figures give a better feel for lateness (or 'reasonably near to on-time'-ness) , but I'd agree that the 5 and 10 minute buffers are excessive.

The best solution would be to do a proper statistical analysis (maybe including pie charts to show proportions of trains arriving in 'lateness bands' to give a better feel for the devil in the detail). Alas, I suspect that the majority of people don't care or aren't sufficiently stats-literate to make this worthwhile.
 

Butts

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I think to the minute is too fine, but ten minutes certainly is way too much (think of connections and stuff, I would hardly claim the train is "on time" if someone misses a legitimate connection because the train was not actually on time).
Agreed to an extent but if a change was made they would probably use the same timetabling "Fiction" UK Domestic flights do.

ie Birmingham to Edinburgh flying time 45 mins

Timetabled journey time 1 Hour 10 mins

Suprisingly the planes are nearly always "on schedule":oops:
 

Oswyntail

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There are two sides to this, incorrectly brought together in stories on this topic.
  • The general travelling public do not really care whether their train is on time or late (unless they are asked!); they care whether they can reach their appointment, get to work on time, make their connection. One, two, even ten minutes do not really matter. On the other hand, if they miss their connection or appointment that they could legitimately be expected to make they would like recompense or alternative arrangements.
  • Railway operators need to know the system is working. To them, seconds can count, so the granularity of measurement of lateness is important. They need to be able to plan, to maximise the benefit of assets. For them the more detailed analysis (the pie chart approach) is essential.
At present, the public are led to believe that they are suffering "lateness" when that is measured by the industry standards, while the industry can brush off such accusations if knock-on effects are absent. What is really needed is to split the two measures, and then to rewrite the public script so that they think of lateness on the rails in the same way they think of it in any other part of their life. (Which is not to say that on-time running should not be the prime aim!)
 

cle

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If my train is 9 minutes late, that shouldn't be considered on time. Simple as.

5 minutes is a lot more reasonable threshold.
 

Failed Unit

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I used to object to the Edinburgh - Glasgow via Falkirk route having a 10 minute delay calculation because it was an "express". I think it is 5 now (or I will still object). It just seemed wrong that a 47 mile journey taking 50 minutes had an easier target than say fife circle or Glasgow - fort William / Carlisle.
 

PaxVobiscum

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Apparently this is being discussed on today's "You and Yours" on Radio 4 (not that it will tell us anything we don't already know).
On now as I type.
 

tbtc

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If the delay margins are reduced, all that will happen is more padding will be added to the timetables.
Precisely!

If it becomes a one minute "window" then we'll get arguments about when it arrives to the second (is it the train passing into the signalling "block"? is it the train arriving in the platform? the doors opening? - who is going to stand with a stopwatch?)

With most things in life you expect a degree of flexibility (maybe my 330ml can of Irn-Bru contained only 329ml - should I complain?) - what gets me is that the same people who insist on every train running to the nearest minute are often the same people who think that all trains should be "held" for connections.
 

Failed Unit

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Precisely!

If it becomes a one minute "window" then we'll get arguments about when it arrives to the second (is it the train passing into the signalling "block"? is it the train arriving in the platform? the doors opening? - who is going to stand with a stopwatch?)

With most things in life you expect a degree of flexibility (maybe my 330ml can of Irn-Bru contained only 329ml - should I complain?) - what gets me is that the same people who insist on every train running to the nearest minute are often the same people who think that all trains should be "held" for connections.
LOL - But I guess if the former happened the later wouldn't be needed.
 

Rhydgaled

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A 10 minute delay margin is too much, but 1 minute is probably too little. A 4 or 5 minute margin is probably more sensible, perhaps with a smaller fine applied if the train is between 4 and 10 minutes late than if it is later than 10 minutes.

I also think it shouldn't only be the time at the last station that counts for determining whether the train is late, to encourage the operator to spread out the padding (rather than sticking 6 extra minutes between the last two stops, add 1 minute before 6 of the key stops on route).
 

Failed Unit

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A 10 minute delay margin is too much, but 1 minute is probably too little. A 4 or 5 minute margin is probably more sensible, perhaps with a smaller fine applied if the train is between 4 and 10 minutes late than if it is later than 10 minutes.

I also think it shouldn't only be the time at the last station that counts for determining whether the train is late, to encourage the operator to spread out the padding (rather than sticking 6 extra minutes between the last two stops, add 1 minute before 6 of the key stops on route).
I would certainly agree that all stations should be measured.

Has anyone noticed in the Scotrail propaganda magazine (insight) the only targets that are currently getting missed are network rail ones. Not that I really believe what Scotrail are publishing.
 

tbtc

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A 10 minute delay margin is too much, but 1 minute is probably too little. A 4 or 5 minute margin is probably more sensible, perhaps with a smaller fine applied if the train is between 4 and 10 minutes late than if it is later than 10 minutes.

I also think it shouldn't only be the time at the last station that counts for determining whether the train is late, to encourage the operator to spread out the padding (rather than sticking 6 extra minutes between the last two stops, add 1 minute before 6 of the key stops on route).
When there's padding on the middle of the route (like XC have) people complain about the long dwells at intermediate station. That's a better proposal (in my eyes), but it does cause complaints from some about the five/ten minutes that you can be sat at some stations.

To use Welsh examples, a minute is a big delay on the Cardiff Bay shuttle, five minutes is a better benchmark on a Barry Island service and ten minutes more suitable for the WAG Express. But then you end up confusing passengers because they'd need to know where their train originated *from* to know whether they could claim money back.
 

SS4

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It depends on the time between stations. On a four hour journey ten minutes is neither here nor there but on a ten minute journey you're looking at double the journey time.

Surely the fairest definition would be to have variable lateness figures on lines and stations according to how far apart the stations are and the service frequency. For example a two minute delay on the core of the cross-city will be fair enough yet four or five for BHM-WVH direct.
 

Oswyntail

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A 10 minute delay margin is too much, but 1 minute is probably too little. A 4 or 5 minute margin is probably more sensible, perhaps with a smaller fine applied if the train is between 4 and 10 minutes late than if it is later than 10 minutes......
And there we have it - summing up everything that is wrong at present in a single post. First (talking here about the public definition of "delay" as I referred to above) 10 minutes on a Newcastle-Penzance is less serious than on a Stourbridge PPM, where 1 minute should be unacceptable. And what is the point of fines? All they achieve is the growth of the blame attribution departments. If trains regularly run significantly late, and this is reported properly, customers will seek alternative methods of transport - that should be the driver for the industry achieving punctuality.
 

dvboy

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If it's brought down to 1 minute I can think of timetabled services that are consistantly a couple of minutes late which would need adjusting ;)
 

Failed Unit

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When there's padding on the middle of the route (like XC have) people complain about the long dwells at intermediate station. That's a better proposal (in my eyes), but it does cause complaints from some about the five/ten minutes that you can be sat at some stations.
They tend not to have any padding in any services as it wastes capacity. They do however have differences between the public timetable and working timetable which is where the padding is. For example East Coast services are shown to arrive in London from Scotland at x55, in reality they are often showing up at about x48. I would be interested to see what the working timetable is there.

We have a few good examples of abuse such as the Wrexham service that departs before it arrives, or the XC service that gets overtaken on its way to Bournemouth by a SWT service on a 2 track route.
 

PaxVobiscum

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Apparently this is being discussed on today's "You and Yours" on Radio 4 (not that it will tell us anything we don't already know).
On now as I type.
Brief item, but the contribution from Tony Miles of Modern Railways magazine was quite sensible. On iPlayer soon.
 

Tomnick

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For example East Coast services are shown to arrive in London from Scotland at x55, in reality they are often showing up at about x48. I would be interested to see what the working timetable is there.
The general rule seems to be a 5 minute differential for arrivals from Scotland, 3 minutes for everything else. There are one or two exceptions to the rule - the most notable being the 0540 ex-Edinburgh (which would otherwise have a 4hr 5min journey time!!).
 

mailman

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I think that sounds rather pernickety (I was trying to think of the word, actually I think it's pedantic, but pernickety's a good one). It's only in the world of the Railways that people get so obssessive about whether it's one minute late. With anything else, you'd say "well, we should get there about twelvish", don't they, not "we will get there at 1158", and if it's 1200 they rarely get indignant. Obviously for internal purposes the Railways run to precise timings, but I mean from the point of view of the ordinary person in the street.
Dunno but MAYBE its got something to do with the three, four, five, six or SEVEN thousand pounds a year people pay for the priviledge of commuting to work eh?

Mailman
 

AlterEgo

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To use Welsh examples, a minute is a big delay on the Cardiff Bay shuttle, five minutes is a better benchmark on a Barry Island service and ten minutes more suitable for the WAG Express. But then you end up confusing passengers because they'd need to know where their train originated *from* to know whether they could claim money back.
I think you may be confused. This has literally nothing to do with Delay Repay and everything to do with fines levied on train companies for not hitting their PPM (Public Performance Measure).

Delay Repay has a 30-minute threshold. Some companies have one hour as the threshold, as they do not have a "Delay Repay" scheme.
 

transmanche

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With most things in life you expect a degree of flexibility (maybe my 330ml can of Irn-Bru contained only 329ml - should I complain?).
Exactly. In fact the strange little 'e-mark' symbol (℮) on the packaging indicates that the volume/weight shown is the average pack contents. The allowed margin of error is between 1.5% and 9%, depending on the pack size.

Maybe we need something similar for the railways; trains are officially late if they take more than x% of the scheduled time. Where x is a variable amount depending on the type of service - 102% (for InterCity) to 105% (for commuter services) might be a ballpark starting point. And timings should be taken at major calling points not just the final terminus.
 

Rhydgaled

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To use Welsh examples, a minute is a big delay on the Cardiff Bay shuttle, five minutes is a better benchmark on a Barry Island service and ten minutes more suitable for the WAG Express.
You make a good point there, but ten minutes is too long for any service. A connection (unless you have a fully enclosed, seated, waiting area at the interchange point) is a gap between services of 5 to 10 minutes for buses, with 7 being about ideal. For rail, I'd probably say 7 to 12 miniutes (although in some cases this could be longer due to a large/complicated station where it takes some time to get to the correct platform for the connecting train). Ideally a fully-enclosed, seated, waiting area would be provided which would make for safer (11-20 minute) connections.

A train arriving 10 minutes late would therefore miss the majority of connections, so 10 minutes delay is too long and some sort of incentive is needed to ensure delays longer than five minutes are kept to a minimum, no matter how long a distance the services have traveled.
 

Skymonster

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As passengers [on advance tickets especially] are penalised for arriving one minute late for their train, so then the TOCs should blummin' well be penalised / marked down against PPM for operating one minute late.

Andy
 

Failed Unit

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The general rule seems to be a 5 minute differential for arrivals from Scotland, 3 minutes for everything else. There are one or two exceptions to the rule - the most notable being the 0540 ex-Edinburgh (which would otherwise have a 4hr 5min journey time!!).
One good example of the padding getting used to the TOCs advantage is the 1900 London - Edinburgh, which arrives at 2334. But if you look at the 1600 it can leave Berwick at 1939 and arrive at Edinburgh at 2022!

The wise would say the 1900 is slower because of engineering work. The cynics will say it is to avoid valid connection into the last trains of the evening to reduce taxis.
 

transmanche

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One good example of the padding getting used to the TOCs advantage is the 1900 London - Edinburgh, which arrives at 2334.
How about the 22:00 London-Newcastle?

A couple of weeks ago, I was on the TPE service arriving into York at 00:09, wanting to catch the 00:41 EC service to Newcastle (which is the 22:00 ex-KGX). When I stepped off the TPE train, I saw that the EC train was already there... it must have been over half an hour early arriving into York. It departed on time, but as the remaining calls were set down only, it arrived in Newcastle about 20-25 mins early. So almost an hour's worth of padding!

I can see a new thread starting... :D
 

ainsworth74

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How about the 22:00 London-Newcastle?
The padding on that service is more understandable as it's more likely to be diverted around engineering or to take an unusual route to York in order to maintain route knowledge. The last train to Leeds (2330 off KGX) is often booked to take a weird and wonderful route to Leeds (hence no calling at Wakefield) but when it doesn't and instead takes the direct route it's often very early into Leeds.
 
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