Friday, 20 July 2012

Precision Punctuality Arrives On Time

I'm in Bradford and once again to my amazement I've been called upon to explain how the ticket machines operate. I'm less surprised this time and even less shocked when my train is late. As normal I've run (a jog to many people) for my train and arriving at the platform discover with relief it's due shortly. Minutes pass and the board still says the train is “on time” despite its scheduled departure having already passed. A group of us mill around the platform internally grumbling until the train disappears from the board and is replaced by the next service. I'm used to buses seemingly being sucked into the void, never arriving despite information boards announcing their imminent arrival moments before but trains?

Back in April, I remember being flabbergasted by various news articles claiming that Network Rail had improved punctuality figures. I spent January to June commuting between Leeds and Crossflatts and experienced delays every day without fail on my return journey. I'm relieved to recently read that new punctuality tables are soon to be published using new criteria that no longer allows five to ten minute delays to be considered as “on time”. The new figures suggest regional trains are “on time” 71% of the time while long-distance journeys only make the cut 59.7% of the time ( Somewhat different from the 90% old calculation methods threw up and still hard to believe for the regular commuter.

In search of station staff to query, I go towards the barriers where three ladies mull over the information board, who seem equally confused by the disappearance of a whole train. One of their number is less fazed, impressively reassuring us she can see it in the distance. I can't but several minutes later her point is made.

Boarding my metal steed, I wonder whether alongside punctuality tables Network Rail plan to improve information boards. After all, acting as company spokesman Network Rail’s Robin Gisby (their operations managing director) recently said: “We will be open and honest with the public about our performance and the capacity constraints we’re working under”. I dubiously look forward to the days when information boards are less misleading and trains stop being abducted by alien ships.

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