ORR says rail performance ‘not good enough’ as ​​1,000 trains canceled every day

Daily train cancellations across Great Britain have risen to their highest level since records began in 2014.

Figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) covering the last three months of 2022 show that one in 30 trains were completely canceled on the same day. Another one in 40 flights were curtailed, with part of the journey being cancelled.

The figures do not include any cancellations announced up to 10pm the previous day, either due to staff shortages or strikes.

From the beginning of October to the end of December, a total of 88,703 trains were fully or partially cancelled. With no trains scheduled on 25 or 26 December, the number is valid for 89 days – an average of 997 per day.

The 51,700 full cancellations represent 3.3 percent, or one in 30, of the trains that were due to run. The 37,003 part cancellations affected 2.4 percent of services, or one in 40.

Feras Alshaker, Director, Planning & Performance at ORR, said: “Train reliability is not good enough. Even on non-strike days the number of trains being canceled is very high and we know that for some operators these numbers would be higher due to pre-cancellations.”

“Pre-cancellations” is a reference to the practice known as “P-coding”. Some train operators facing staff shortages cancel trains for the next day just before 10pm, meaning they are not included in the timetables against which rail performance statistics are measured.

Among trains that actually ran, punctuality worsened during 2022. The number of trains that arrived at stations on time – defined as less than a minute after the scheduled time – fell to 62.3 percent in the last three months of last year.

That’s 5.4 percent worse than the same period in 2021, though arrears are 2.9 percent better than the same quarter in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

A long-term concern is the drop in the total number of trains that were to run.

On a typical day between October and December 2022, 4,000 fewer trains ran than in the same period three years earlier. This represents a decrease of 19.2%.

Some of these cancellations were due to repeated strikes between 1 October and 27 December, mainly involving members of the RMT union. The first day of the strike, which was also joined by the train drivers’ union, Aslef, saw 87 percent of scheduled trains cancelled.

On other days of national RMT strikes, around four out of five trains are usually cancelled.

Even in the days before or after the strikes, the disruption was significant. On December 15, between two 48-hour strikes at the RMT, 32 per cent of trains – almost one in three – were cancelled.

However, the number of trains canceled due to industrial action is falling due to the overall reduction in available trains due to service cuts.

Part of the shrinking routes was due to emergency timetables on Avanti West Coast and TransPennine Express introduced due to chronic crew shortages. Avanti ran 26 percent fewer trains in the last three months of 2024 compared to the same period in 2021.

More generally, however, the number of daily trains has been reduced with cuts to some suburban and intercity express services during periods of low demand.

The independent requested a response from the Ministry of Transport.

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