The Guardian - the Peak and punctuality statistics?

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cuccir

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In some ways, this story is typical Guardian reporting on rail issues.

I do wonder if one positive step that could be made is a call for TOCs to produce a separate table of 'peak' punctuality statistics: say, Mon-Fri, 06:30-09:30? It seems to me that is I was making a decision as to whether or not to commute, this information might start to be more useful than current performance stats.

I started commuting Durham - Newcastle in September, and on Monday I had my first ever 15 min+ morning delay: while individual services may be delayed or cancelled, there's enough trains to get you in. This, on the whole, seems pretty impressive in comparison to stories from some parts of the country, and potentially the contrast of performances between TOCs in the peak would be more revealing than current stats.

Extract of story below (though note I strongly disagree with this forum policy):

It all started when I was glancing idly at a Southern Railway performance poster while waiting for a delayed train. The posters are displayed around the network and proudly demonstrate how rail companies have hit their target for service performance – or at least how they have run close to it. But as I stared at the poster I wondered how more than 80% of trains were supposedly running on time, yet my experience was nothing like that.

At first I thought a couple of bad days on the trains were clouding my perception, and in reality most trains were running on time. But it didn’t ring true, so from the beginning of 2016 I started to keep a record of my journeys, comparing the time I should have arrived at my destinations with when I actually did (or in some cases failed to).

Between the beginning of January and mid-April I had lost more than 24 hours due to delayed or cancelled trains. And as I write in early May, that figure is now more than 29 hours, which doesn’t include two days where I couldn’t travel because of a strike. It is a testament to how badly our rail services perform and how this is masked by clever presentation of the data.

For the rail companies I use regularly, Southern and Thameslink, both run by Govia, the latest official public performance measure (PPM) was that 82.5% of services were on time. But when I looked at my figures the picture was completely different: around 37% of services had arrived within five minutes of their scheduled time. Some might argue that my figures can’t show how the service is performing overall as they are for a limited number of journeys on limited routes and therefore statistically irrelevant. I am not saying they are definitive, but they do show that my experience is nowhere near the one the rail firms say I should be getting. I am one of hundreds of people who do the same or similar journeys and we all get affected. I wonder if more of us recorded our journeys whether their data would be closer to mine or that of the rail companies?

I commute daily from Horsham in Sussex to London, and I usually finish my journey at London Bridge or City Thameslink. Until last year I was commuting 32 miles to Chichester on near-empty trains, which cost me about £1,600 a year for a journey of about an hour door-to-door. But, for a better job and salary, I traded it in for the packed trains to London, increasing my journey by just six or seven miles. However, the fare rose to just short of £4,000 a year. The journey time also went up – it’s often more than two hours door-to-door, and that’s without delays. Thankfully, I generally get a seat most mornings, but a change at East Croydon means standing on packed trains. There are days when I’ve been unable to board a train because of the overcrowding...
 
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LNW-GW Joint

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Why is it "typical Guardian reporting"? Their business reporting on rail is pretty good, and they often get wind of changes before the rest of the media.
I agree this particular story is a bit like Which? reports, where they can't find anything good to say about rail travel, but any consumer-led story is bound to emphasise poor performance, especially for London-bound commuters.
 

Be3G

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I once did something similar (though not over as long a time period) back when NXEA were the current operator of the WAML and I was commuting to university every day. I had the same feeling as the author of the article: that I was being delayed so frequently that I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn't imagining it. I wasn't. Similarly, many of the delays were disruptive but not in and of themselves worthy of compensation. Once I finished my logging I sent in a complaint to NXEA and I think they sent me a small voucher as a goodwill gesture, but naturally the delays kept continuing!
 

Wolfie

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Why is it "typical Guardian reporting"? Their business reporting on rail is pretty good, and they often get wind of changes before the rest of the media.
I agree this particular story is a bit like Which? reports, where they can't find anything good to say about rail travel, but any consumer-led story is bound to emphasise poor performance, especially for London-bound commuters.

Given that official stats suggest that GTR has been the least reliable TOC (London Bridge rebuilding certainly hasn't helped) and is actually getting worse (due in no small part to management (DfT?) apparently deliberately antagonising pretty much their whole workforce) this report is completely unsurprising.
 
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Tetchytyke

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The Guardian is usually one of the more balanced newspapers when it comes to rail reporting, they certainly don't go in for the hyperbole of the Daily Mail.

When I was commuting into London with the hopeless London Midland I did a similar thing, just to prove to myself that I wasn't being unreasonable in getting so frustrated with them. And the results were very similar: most days I'd have a 5-10 minute delay in the morning and another 5-10 minute delay in the evening. At least once a week I was losing at least 20+ minutes on one journey. Even though the vast majority of my delays were not eligible for Delay Repay, I still clocked up £200 in RTVs in one 12 month period.

In itself that 5-10 minute delay doesn't really matter, but cumulatively I was losing 60-90 minutes a week in delays with London Midland, not to mention the weeks at a time when I couldn't take a train at all because Network Rail were screwing up the installation of new signalling at Watford Junction.

I thought the report was pretty fair. When the rail industry are trumpeting statistics that they bear no resemblance to what the majority of passengers experience, it is no wonder that that frustration turns to anger.
 

cuccir

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Oh I didn't really mean much by the Guardian comment...

I'm more interested in the substantive issue; what could be done to better record/monitor commuter time delays?
 

bluenoxid

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Oh I didn't really mean much by the Guardian comment...

I'm more interested in the substantive issue; what could be done to better record/monitor commuter time delays?

Apart from GPS tracking and working it into the door locks, the only thing I would suggest is publication of all service performance.
 

Tetchytyke

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I'm more interested in the substantive issue; what could be done to better record/monitor commuter time delays?

It is relatively straightforward to record and monitor commuter time delays. The service statistics are kept; some TOCs (e.g. VTEC) already have separate refund mechanisms to season ticket holders where peak-time performance drops.

The problem is whether there is the desire. Government won't want to record it, at least publicly, because it will show just how bad the privatised railway industry is. Likewise Network Rail and the TOCs won't want to admit just how poor their performance actually is.

Much easier to hide behind the punctuality and reliability targets that are so low anyone should be able to comfortably meet them.
 
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