Just who is to blame for the failure of your train to arrive on time?

PUBLISHED: 08:21 20 October 2015 | UPDATED: 14:51 20 October 2015

Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to London service run by Abellio.  Photo: Bill Smith

Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to London service run by Abellio. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2012

When your train journey goes wrong, who is to blame? In the second of our series on the railways, Andrew Hirst investigates

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We’ve all been there.

You have somewhere to be and instead you are sitting on a train, going nowhere, fast.

Crime on the trains

Crime on the train network in the region has fallen overall. However, there are some stations which saw a rise.

British Transport Police figures show that, for the UK, crime is reported to have been cut by 40pc since 2003/4, with an 82pc reduction in robbery and 52pc in theft.

Norwich, which saw the most reported incidents out of Norfolk and Suffolk, recorded a fall in crimes in the station from 83 in 2013/14 to 66 in 2014/15, while those reported during journeys also fell from 46 to 37. The most crimes in the region were recorded in Colchester, which saw 
station offences increase from 73 to 104 over the last year, while those committed on the train rose from 34 to 43. Ipswich station also saw an increase from 46 to 49 in the station and from 18 to 24 on trains.

A Passenger Focus survey in autumn 2013 showed that 76pc of passengers rated their security as “good” or “very good” in autumn 2013 compared with 68pc in 2008-09.

Many will probably curse the operator of the train they are on. The digitally minded may take to social media to express their frustration.

There are in fact several Twitter accounts in existence with the sole aim of highlighting people’s moans at the region’s main train operator – Abellio Greater Anglia.

But figures uncovered as part of our series on the trains suggest many people may be aiming their frustrations in the wrong place.

For the year up to September 19, figures show that 62pc of delays on all Greater Anglia services are in fact classed as the fault of Network Rail. For mainline services between Norwich and London in 2014/15 this rises to 69pc, against a national average of 59pc.

Reasons include infrastructure problems, overrunning works, but also things they have little control over, such as poor weather and fatality incidents.

Another growing problem relates to freight trains used on lines that cannot cope, often because they are on single sections of track.

Nearly a quarter of delays (24pc) on the Ipswich to Felixstowe line were caused by “other operators”, with 900,000 shipping containers travelled to the Port of Felixstowe using that line in 2014 alone.

Although the figures have improved slightly in the past month, Network Rail’s performance in this region was worse than many other parts of the country.

But today, the state-owned company, which has responsibility for renewing and maintaining the nation’s rail network, defended its performance, highlighting the major challenges posed by the region having the “most extensively used” route in the country.

A spokesman for the company described the mainline as having “never been busier than it is today” with more than 31 million passenger journeys every year.

To cope with demand, it said it was investing around £170m this year between London and Norwich “to give passengers a more reliable and consistent service”.

“We know how important this essential rail artery is to the region and will continue to work closely with Abellio Greater Anglia to do all we can to improve performance,” the spokesman said.

The offer of infrastructure investment will be welcome news to rail users, but the company will need to deliver the goods to turn around a performance which has regularly come under fire.

A June Office of Rail and 
Road (ORR) Network Rail Monitor 
report, said Network Rail was “not improving train performance 
as much as predicted” and had “fallen short” of its own plans.

Though Network Rail was said 
to have achieved a “relatively successful” period of infrastructure enhancement in early 2014, the 
ORR said this worsened, with the company missing 30 out of 84 planned objectives.

It found on average Network Rail was responsible for 42 of the top 50 passenger affecting incidents per period during 2014-15, and highlighted a 2pc decline in the proportion of passengers satisfied with their journey.

In its response, the company said 
it had been working since January to resolve potential track problems on local services by renewing ballast on the mainline in Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk. Further work is scheduled for next October with the laying of more than 80km of new track along the line.

Its report, ‘Delivering a better railway for a better Britain’, highlights new methods to detect when maintenance work is required, using “real-time, accurate data” to move from a “find and fix” approach to one of “predict and prevent”.

Teams have also been working for the past year to improve the reliability of signalling at Liverpool Street station.

Network Rail said reliability was a key factor in ensuring good performance as failures took the line out
of service until repairs were completed.

Major projects for network enhancements are determined through Network Rail’s Long Term Planning Process, which takes views from train operating companies, passengers and stakeholders.

The draft of the latest plan includes proposals for improvements on the Bury St Edmunds and Felixstowe lines, increased line speeds to at least 110mph between Shenfield and Norwich, as well as changes at Witham.

It stressed, however, this was only an outline of proposals to meet capacity across the network, which would eventually be decided by the government.

Network Rail says it has invested £39bn over the past five years in improving Britain’s railways, as part of the “biggest investment in train travel since the Victorian era”.

It has a further £38bn of spending planned for the next five years.

Funding for Network Rail’s work comes from the Department for Transport, which paid it a £3.9bn grant for 2014/15. It also receives grants from train companies and commercial properties.

Any improvements will come despite being set a target to reduce its spending by 20pc over the next five years on top of the 15pc cuts it had already achieved in the last five years.

What do you think of train services in the region? Take our survey online by clicking here.

Tomorrow: We take to the trains to look at passenger satisfaction.

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