Cost of delays to passengers revealedWatchdog wants better information for passengers

14 March 2008

Rail delays cost train passengers around £1 billion in terms of time lost in 2006/07, a report from a government spending watchdog said today.

The year saw almost 800,000 incidents which caused 14 million minutes of delay to rail journeys, the National Audit Office (NAO) report added.

Train companies and Network Rail (NR) generally had well-established procedures for managing incidents.

But 'contingency plans were not always available or implemented as well as they could have been' said the NAO and the relationship between NR and the emergency services 'could be improved'.

Risk to safety

The report found:

  • NR staff felt that local police force practices could be unhelpful in some cases, making it more difficult to resolve the incident and, on occasion, presenting a risk to the safety of passengers on delayed trains and at overcrowded stations when services are disrupted;
  • there was evidence to suggest that emergency personnel are not always aware of whom to contact within NR during an emergency;
  • there are agreements between NR and the emergency services on how to deal with the most severe types of incidents but little evidence of agreements for the serious but more common incidents such as fatalities, trespassing or road vehicles hitting railway bridges;
  • the Highways Agency is making progress in establishing memoranda of understanding with the emergency services that the rail industry currently does not have;
  • medical and other emergency protocols take precedence over rail industry procedures and protocols which can prolong incidents;
  • individual emergency personnel attend rail incidents infrequently, do not normally undergo formal training on railway incidents or track safety and may not receive all the available NR guidance, and so may not be aware of how to work safely on the railways;
  • there are also shortcomings in the way that passengers are handled when incidents occur and there is scope for the rail industry to keep them better informed when they are delayed.

Frustration

NAO head Tim Burr said: 'In addition to frustrating passengers, train delays cost the economy over £1 billion year.

'The rail industry has made progress in keeping trains moving, despite the rise in traffic on the network but, when incidents happen, passengers should get better information about what is happening. All sections of the rail industry need to improve their incident planning to keep trains moving quickly and safely.'

There's nothing more infuriating than being stuck on a train with no information

Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, said: 'There is nothing more infuriating than being stuck on a train or a platform with no information about the cause of delay and how long it will take to resolve.

'As trains become ever more crowded, delays become even more unbearable for passengers stuck in hot, stuffy carriages. I fully support the Passenger Focus proposal that within two minutes passengers should be given as much information as is available.'

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