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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  • And we have the EU to thank for the nonsense of separation of infrastructure from operators. AGA have one hand tied behind their back in this respect. Botched privatisation and fragmentation also to blame. The free marketeers learnt in the 1920s that having a myriad of private companies didn't work and grouped them all into 4 large concerns, each responsible for everything within their area. Our stupid politicians, in both parties, ignored this lesson in their haste to flog off our railways in the '90s and keep them privatised in the '00s!

    Report this comment

    marty r

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • 'How can you spend all that money and deliver no obvious benefit?' Indeed, Mickey reverb, makes you wonder who benefits. Oh, I know, perhaps it's bring spent on huge chief exec salaries and bonuses, and dividends, and corporate junkets. We're subsidising these companies, even though most of us don't use them. How can that be fair?

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • Whenever something does not work properly in this country we always get bombarded with incomprehensibly high numbers as to how much has been and is being spent to improve the 'service'. To my mind, rather than demonstrate that 'something good must be happening' those figures make me think 'how can you spend all that money and deliver no obvious benefit?'

    Report this comment

    Mickey Reverb

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • Bring back BR; Simples! But it is not that simple, people have always treated the rail system in this country as 'publicaly' owned because it was until the 1980's and have criticized it as though it still was, a matter that the tories are happy to embrace. Until the railways are returned to public ownership the investment in them will still be insufficient to keep on top of the public's wishes and requirements.

    Report this comment

    Jon Knight

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • It's been a few years since I commuted on the train from Norwich to Colchester and London, but I did a daily commute for over 10 years. In my time commuting I observed several things : 1. Train punctuality and reliability was poor. It was a regular apology to arrive late in work because of some delay or other to the point where it just became accepted. Fortunately I had an understanding employer. There were also some utterly diabolical trips home during this period, hours and HOURS of delays and not much organisation to sort it out. 2. The cost of the service was astronomical. We complain about prices in a fairly abstract way, but perhaps the most embarrassing example of this was when you'd get a tourist or traveller from somewhere else in the world buy their ticket, and you were always guaranteed an incredulous exclamation when they were told by the conductor what the price was. I can only say I felt shame at the state of the trains and the prices that were being pushed on visitors to the country. Awful. 3. At no point in my commuting did I see a new train. "New" trains were refurbished cast offs that had lived past the point of recover for other operators ( Virgin ) that were brought in to service the Norwich to London line. 4. The general state of the trains - dirty, grease covered doors, broken AC, broken doors and the ubiquitous delays and problems - was institutionalised, it wasn't a matter of concern, but instead had been accepted as normal. After spending nearly 20 years commuting on trains I can say that the Norwich to London line was dire - it reflects badly on us as a country, a region, is over priced, under serviced and if you ever needed an example horror story that private company ownership does *not* improve quality of service, then look no further. Argue all you like about who is to blame where, bottom line, the UK is one of the worst examples of train service in the developed world. An example not to follow. What a sad epitaph to the country that gave birth to the railways.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • Well '552, buy a few shares, then. That way you'll have the last laugh.

    Report this comment

    Green Ink from Tunbridge Wells

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • Well, there was a 13-year period in which nationalisation could have occurred, but instead privatisation was encouraged with PFIs and special deals with sweet-sounding friends. Do people really have such short memories of government-run industries that were the laughing stock of the world, such as British Rail ("we're getting there" - slowly) and British Leyland (with it's dire productivity record of 6-7 carsman year compared to 12 on the continent)?

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • Yes green ink, British rail was a joke. The railways still are. Just now though the joke is on us for paying more for travel, in older carriages, with less punctual services, at higher costs and we still subsidise them. Virtually any report will tell you that costs have soared since privatisation, in real terms, and that we give away huge sums to the shareholders instead of reducing ticket prices and improving services. Yes. What a joke. I'm looking for someone with a needle to help stitch my sides.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • With such a big network in place and number of staff working together collectively from one organisation or another it’s difficult to pass the blame onto one thing in my opinion. Instead of passing the buck why doesn’t everyone concentrate on eradicating the problem?

    Report this comment

    Ar ya reet boi?

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • You must be a comedian, arfur. British Rail used to be a great source of joke material, unless anybody was a customer.

    Report this comment

    Green Ink from Tunbridge Wells

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • ruddy tories.

    Report this comment

    Whiley's Mum

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

  • Bring Back British Rail.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site


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