Fewer trains produce increase in punctuality

Passenger train performance during the strictest parts of lockdown improved dramatically, as the number of trains running dropped significantly and carried fewer passengers.

Figures published by the Office of Rail and Road on September 17 reveal that the percentage of trains arriving at station stops ‘on time’ was 86.4% in April-June 2020 (Q1 2020-21), an increase of 17.1 percentage points (pp) compared with the corresponding period in 2019-20.

‘On time’ is recorded as early or less than one minute after the scheduled arrival time, and it was the highest figure since the time series began in 2014-15.

Following the introduction of lockdown, rail services began to be withdrawn on March 23, and again one week later (RAIL 902). Ticket sales dropped by 98% compared with the start of the pandemic. The first service uplift was on May 18.

The dramatic improvement in performance is offset by ORR statistics showing that just 1.2 million trains were planned across the UK during April-June - down 36.7% compared with the corresponding period last year, and the lowest number planned in a quarter since ORR data records began in 1997-98.


National train delay minutes also fell by 68% compared with Q1 2019-20, while delay minutes caused by train operating companies (TOCs) was down by 75%.

Of the cancellations that did occur in Q1, 42.6% were TOC-attributable. Network Rail was held accountable for 39.5% of cancellations through network management issues, and 17.9% was down to external incidents such as severe weather and trespassing.

As for operators, LNER’s On Time performance in Q1 2020-21 rose by 36.8pp compared with Q1 2019-20 (to 83.3% overall). TransPennine Express was next with a 32.7pp improvement (to 78.1%) and CrossCountry with 27.7pp improvement (to 79.3%).

  • For the FULL story, read RAIL 915, published on October 7, and available digitally from October 3.


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