Every second counts as rail firms use new punctuality measures to help improve performance

From April, Britain’s train operators and Network Rail will publish new measures of train punctuality as part of an ongoing plan to improve performance and reduce delays.

  • Rail companies have worked together to develop the measures which will mean trains will be measured to the minute at stops rather than just within 5 or 10 minutes at the destination only.
  • On time measures are being used to tackle delays now, including at some of the country’s busiest railway stations.
  • People can view performance information for specific journeys on the industry-funded My Train Journey website. Network-wide data is available on the Rail Delivery Group website.
  • The measures are the most transparent of all major railways in Europe, and are part of the industry’s wider programme of work to improve performance and increase customer satisfaction.

Britain's rail companies will be using ‘to the minute’ train performance data as the primary method of measuring punctuality from April as part of the cross-industry programme of work to tackle delays and improve satisfaction.

Train operators and Network Rail worked together to develop a range of measures including 'on time' measures to create a way of tracking train punctuality that better matches the real experience of customers in different markets and to provide companies with more detailed information about delays, so they can understand and address the root causes.

The current punctuality measure, known as the Public Performance Measure (PPM), considers a train to be ‘on time’ if it reaches its final destination within 5 or 10 minutes for short distance and long-distance services, respectively. On time measures will record train punctuality to the minute at every stop on its journey. Train operators and Network Rail are already using the data to pinpoint issues that cause delays and improve punctuality (see case studies below).

Rail companies will publish a spread of information about train punctuality: early, within a minute of the timetabled arrival or within three, five, 10 or 15 minutes and after 15, 20 or 30 minutes. The proportion of trains cancelled is also shown.

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Chart: On Time Measures – the national picture for the most recent 4-week rail period

The introduction of the new measure is part of a co-ordinated programme of work led by the National Task Force, a cross industry group of operations leaders, and the RDG Board of rail industry CEOs, to improve performance across the network now and in the long term. This includes:

  • Using shared best practice to improve performance and analysis of challenges causing poor performance. Teams have also been established to prevent suicides on the network and stop people trespassing on to the railway.
  • Preparing for and improving co-ordinated responses to changes in seasonal weather, including autumn leaf fall, snow and high temperatures. Each train operator and Network Rail route developed plans to improve preparations for Autumn 2018, helping to ensure more trains were able to run between October and mid December – the equivalent of an additional days’ worth of trains ran, approximately 23,000 services, compared to 2017. 
  • Supporting the new cross-industry timetabling task force to ensure that the roll out of 6,400 additional services by the early 2020s goes smoothly. As announced earlier this month, in May 2019, over 1,000 extra train services are being introduced across the network and hundreds of rail planners and engineers have been working hard over many months to implement these improvements effectively. 

Paul Plummer, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry said: 

“Every second matters to us and our customers which is why rail companies have together developed and are now using these to-the-minute measures for train punctuality at every station part of our plan to improve the railway today. 

“Record investment to upgrade the railway, including the roll out of thousands of new carriages, will continue to help improve journeys over the coming years and in the shorter term, we’re using a more transparent measure of punctuality to help us cut delays and reduce disruption.” 

Janet Cooke, CEO of London Travelwatch said:

“This is a welcome change which will help focus the industry on passenger needs and foster a culture of ‘start on time, stay on time, arrive on time’.” 

The rail regulator, Office of Rail and Road, will continue to publish on time measures on its data portal and it will form part of the framework for measuring punctuality in reports that it produces, from April 2019 onwards. 

The measures will make Britain’s railway the most transparent for punctuality of any major railway in Europe. The measures are also clearer than those used by other modes of transport: the UK’s aviation industry measures punctuality to within 15 minutes and, according to analysis by the Press Association from May 2018, flights across all airports left an average of 15 minutes late. 

These new measures are already used on the industry-funded My Train Journey website which allows people to check how punctual their service has been. 

Working together to improve customer satisfaction, the rail industry began recording the on time measure in 2017, and today’s announcement means the on time measures will be published alongside PPM. 

Rail companies are also using new innovative tools to keep people up to date about their journey. As part of a trial, customers are able to get personalised journey information through Facebook Messenger, when they need it. This trial is in addition to existing services, including app notifications and SMS updates. 

Improving customer information about their journeys is an important step in increasing customer satisfaction, a key part of the industry’s long-term plan to change and improve. The new transparent measures will be implemented alongside over £50bn of public and private investment in 7,000 new carriages, upgraded track and technology, which will increase the capacity and reliability of rail services. 

CASE STUDY

Working together to improve journeys at Cardiff Central

Cardiff Central is one of the busiest stations in Wales serving both local and long distance customers. CrossCountry runs services across Britain and it is important that trains start their journey on time to avoid delays on services running into their ‘hub’ in Birmingham and on routes beyond the midlands.  In collaboration with Network Rail and other operators, CrossCountry agreed to target ‘on time’ starts on routes from Cardiff. This has improved punctuality and led to a 5.4% improvement in trains leaving on time compared to the same time last year, reducing delays across the route. 

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