Thursday, 31 March 2016

Why are National Rail trains delayed?

I would like to give you all a quick report regarding the delays I’ve seen recently.

It's late in the morning on 30th March 2016 and I'm looking at Real Time Trains and Open Train Times (diagram map) of the 0953 service from Romford to London Liverpool Street station. The service is a fast train which runs alongside the Shenfield Metro which is branded as TFL Rail. I should point out that TFL Rail is operated by MTR Crossrail.

The service I'm monitoring is 2K43, operated by Abellio Greater Anglia. I was expecting the 0953 service to London Liverpool Street [LST] from Romford Station [RMF], but instead a freight train (Duty code 488V) went past Romford Station at 0952¼ which is three minutes behind their schedule. Then shortly afterwards the expected 0953 train arrives at 0954¾ and departed at 0955¾ making it two minutes late.

As I watch the signalling diagram from the Open Train Times of the 2K43 service, it approaches Stratford [SRA] and changed platforms from 9 to platform 5 as I witnessed a train on platform 9.

The ‘fast’ train arriving at platform 5 is handy for commuters switching to the Central Line which is adjacent; usually TFL Rail services going towards London Liverpool Street stop at platform 5.

The 2K43 service departed at 1005¾ which is four minutes behind its schedule as it usually departs at 1001½. Then the 2K43 train arrived at London Liverpool Street at 1013 making it three minutes late. Its expected arrival on the timetable is at 1010.

Below is the timetable of the services which logged the 2K43 service on 30th March 2016.

At 11am on the same day, Abellio Greater Anglia reported a speed restriction at Gidea Park.

Let’s take a quick look at the diagram showing where every pound of income from fares go to:

Interesting how 22p out of each pound goes to maintaining track and trains while 3p goes to the operating company profits. This image is taken from the National Rail website.

I’ve also found out from National Rail that the passengers who've been delayed for more than 30 minutes (for most train companies) will get a refund for their fare. This also applies with London Overground and TFL Rail as well.

Countries like Japan and Germany provide passengers a delay certificate which is issued by the railway company to show that the scheduled passenger train arrived at the station later than the scheduled timetable. Users of the C2C (London Tilbury Southend line) have an automated delay repay for those who have been delayed after 2 minutes. This only applies for users of the C2C smartcard holders.

In my view, in order to have a decent service, the railway infrastructure, such as the signalling system and rails need to be in good condition in order to maintain a good service for the train companies. So who owns the railway infrastructure? Network Rail, which is owned by the UK Government since Railtrack PLC went into “Railway Administration” in 2002.

In my previous article I mentioned that Arriva won the London Overground contract. In the TFL press release, it says:

“To support this, new incentives have been incorporated into the new contract including financially penalising Arriva should incidents caused by Network Rail, train and freight operators impact on London Overground services. Along with the tightening of the rail industry standard measurement for punctuality for commuter services to three minutes within the scheduled arrival time. These measures are being implemented to encourage closer working with Network Rail and Bombardier to continue to improve reliability and provide high quality services for customers.”

I can't see a reason why TFL would have to penalise Arriva over the incidents caused by Network Rail, freight and train operators. But at least this new rule will persuade Network Rail and other train operators to give priority to the London Overground services. Plus it’s quite important to have staff at the platform to observe the boarding and alighting of the passengers because during rush hour times they may cause delay by trapping objects between the doors.

So what about the trains? The trains are leased to the train operating company by a Rolling stock operating company (ROSCO). They have the responsibility of maintaining the trains and carriages which they lease to the train operating company. Their trains have to be in good condition which in turn improves the performance of the service.

The performance of services is very important to the train operating companies in order to reduce delays so they can make more profits by having a reliable performance.

I know I haven’t posted for a while so I decided to do this quick article giving my views on the railway delays.

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Image attribution
By mattbuck (category) - Own work by mattbuck., CC BY-SA 4.0,

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