North fares worst as train cancellations hit 18-year high

Three of Yorkshire’s train operators have emerged as the worst performers in a set of national figures which reveal long delays and cancellations to have hit an 18-year high.

Commuters waiting on the platform.
Commuters waiting on the platform.

Disruption to Northern Rail services accounted for more than half of the national deterioration in performance in the first three months of the year, the Government statistics reveal. On Hull Trains, only one service in three was on time – the lowest percentage in the country.

The punctuality figure recorded by Northern was the worst since current records began 10 years ago, the Office of Rail and Road said.

The number of the company’s trains delayed or cancelled because of signalling problems was 82 per cent higher than the previous year, it added.

A third operator, TransPennine Express, recorded the highest proportion of cancellations and its second worst reliability score in a decade.

The figures capped a disastrous year for the industry, following the botched introduction last May of a new timetable whose worst effects were felt in the North. A second wave of disruption in the autumn was blamed by the industry on bad weather.

Last November, only around one train in three run by Northern arrived at its destination on time and some 2,700 services were cancelled.

The latest figures were branded “shocking” by Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, whose members at Northern were on strike every Saturday last autumn. He said they would “come as no surprise to anyone in the North”, adding that they were “a reflection of the lack of investment that has seen key infrastructure projects scrapped”.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Unprecedented delays, confusion and cancellations have made life miserable for Northern passengers. This latest news underscores that passengers are not getting the train service they are paying for.”

The consumer group, Which? said the figures nationwide were the worst since the year 2000.

“Major delays and cancellations have hit an 18-year high, causing huge suffering for passengers and leaving trust in the industry at appallingly low levels,” said Neena Bhati, the organisation’s head of campaigns.

The Rail Delivery Group which speaks for the industry, admitted that 2018 was “not a good year for punctuality”. Robert Nisbet, its director of nations, said improvements in the final quarter “represent a good start and we will work hard to build on them and deliver more improvements in 2019”.