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Many rail services 'unacceptable'

Train passengers have hit out at "unacceptable" service from rail companies as new figures showed journeys are blighted by delays and complaints are not being answered on time.

Some passengers have had to wait up to two hours for their trains to turn up.

And all but one of the rail companies failed to answer complaints within the industry-set target time, new figures from the Office of Rail and Road show.

The numbers come after commuters across Britain faced delays and cancellations in the sweltering heat yesterday as speed restrictions were imposed amid fears the steel tracks would buckle in the sunshine.

A spokesman for Transport Focus, which represents rail passengers, said: "The Office of Rail and Road's figures confirm what many passengers already experience - running punctual and reliable trains remains too patchy.

"This is unacceptable for passengers and it is essential that train companies and Network Rail step up efforts to stop problems happening in the first place and fix things quickly when problems do occur."

Virgin West Coast was languishing at the bottom of the leaderboard for punctuality and dealing with customer complaints.

It is the least punctual rail company in the country, with just under a quarter (26.4%) of their trains arriving more than five minutes off their scheduled time.

Virgin West Coast Trains also had the highest number of trains arriving "significantly late" - meaning delays of between 30 and 119 minutes - at 2.7%.

And it was bottom for complaints, receiving 227.9 complaints per 100,000 journeys.

The best rail operator for punctuality was Merseyrail, which had just 4.4% of its trains arriving off target by five minutes or more.

And Southern had the lowest number of complaints, receiving 9.5 for every 100,000 passenger journeys.

But it had the highest proportion of cancelled services across the year, with almost one in 20 trains (4.6%) axed, while c2c had the lowest proportion at just 1.2%.

South West Trains had the worst record for dealing with complaints, failing to answer more than half (51.5%) within the industry target of 20 working days.

Southeastern was the only company to reach the target for all complaints.

The statistics look at train services across Britain between April 2014 and March 2015.

The punctuality targets for the period, set by The Office of Rail and Road, expect companies to ensure 91% of their trains arrive within five minutes of their scheduled time, or within ten minutes for long distance rail companies.

If trains arrive more than five minutes early, they are also counted as missing their targets.

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: "These figures underline the folly of the franchise system which means passengers are always picking up the bill for the most expensive network in Europe.

"Virgin has been the least punctual service in the UK for the past year but it still gets rewarded for failure by being awarded the contract to run East Coast as well.

"Our private railways would not be out of place in Alice In Wonderland."

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators and Network Rail, said: "We are committed to improving punctuality on a much busier network. We know that we can always do better to deliver the timetable passengers expect.

"Every part of the rail industry is working hard to cut delays, to improve how we communicate with passengers when things go wrong and to deliver the other improvements which the travelling public deserve."

Virgin Trains rejected blame for delayed services, and instead said issues were the fault of Network Rail.

Phil Whittingham, managing director of Virgin Trains, said: "The majority of delays to Virgin Trains West Coast services were caused by issues that are the responsibility of Network Rail and are out of our control.

"Over the past year we were only responsible for 14% of the delays to our services which is one of the best results in the industry. We are working hard to ensure that Network Rail improves performance for our customers."

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: "Passengers rightly expect a decent rail service with trains that run on time.

"As we invest record amounts in transforming the rail network for the future, some disruption is necessary, but we expect the industry to work together to ensure avoidable delays are kept to a minimum.

"We also expect operators to make passengers aware of their right to compensation and to deal with any complaints promptly."


From Belfast Telegraph