Train cancellations in Britain reach highest ever level |  Transport by rail

Train cancellations in Britain reach highest ever level | Transport by rail

Train cancellations have reached an all-time high with more than 314,000 full or partial train cancellations across Britain in a year, according to a Guardian analysis.

Figures from the Railways and Roads Department (ORR) show that the proportion of canceled services has more than doubled since 2015, rising to one in 26 train journeys in the year to October 15, the latest date for which figures are available. available.

Ministers have been accused of rewarding “abject failure” by companies such as Avanti West Coast, which qualifies for a seven-figure performance bonus, despite giving up proportionately more trips than any other operator.

Louise Haigh, the shadow transport secretary, said: “This ongoing fiasco is causing massive damage to the public, passengers and the economy, and ministers seem totally disinterested. After 12 years of Tory neglect, our rail services are in crisis.”

Passengers on one of Britain’s main rail routes were disrupted on Sunday when train managers on the Avanti West Coast line between London and Glasgow went on strike.

There are concerns that service disruptions over the Christmas period could cause misery for thousands of people. A national strike of train drivers is planned for Saturday, with little sign of a breakthrough in negotiations between the Aslef union and railway companies.

Analysis of ORR figures by the Guardian shows that 187,000 trains were canceled completely and 127,000 were partially canceled in the year to October 15, the equivalent of 860 a day. The figures do not include trains that were canceled due to strike.

This equates to 3.8% of scheduled services – meaning one in 26 rail journeys was disrupted or canceled last year – the highest rate since records began in 2014-2015.

This is an increase of 2.9% in the year to October 2019 and 3.1% compared to the same period in 2018. Cancellations fell sharply in 2020 and early 2021 due to the Covid-19 lockdown.


Commuters in the north of England are having a hard time. Avanti West Coast, which operates services between London, Manchester and Glasgow, was the worst offender with one in 13 (7.7%) of its scheduled services cancelled.

Three quarters of those cancellations (76%) were due to train disruptions or other issues within Avanti’s remit, rather than infrastructure issues which are the responsibility of Network Rail. That was more than any other train company in the country.

Labor has pledged to bring the railways under public ownership when operators’ contracts expire.

Haigh, representing the Sheffield Heeley constituency, said ministers were rewarding the “abject failure” of train companies and “must show some responsibility and act”. She added: “It is utterly absurd that millions of people cannot rely on the train to get to work, contrary to countless Tory promises to connect our northern towns and cities.”

In the three months to mid-October, Avanti had canceled 1,440 trains, resulting in overcrowded services at other times.

Train operators will be paid a flat fee by taxpayers to perform services after franchising ends in May 2021. In addition, they are contractually entitled to a “performance fee” for exceeding minimum service standards. Avanti is reportedly eligible for a performance fee of more than £1 million, despite forgoing so much travel.

Avanti has been given until April next year to drastically improve its services, otherwise the contract will be withdrawn by the government.

An Avanti West Coast spokesperson said cancellations fell from nearly 25% at the end of July to 3% in the first week of November.

The operator suspended about a quarter of its services in August, but has said more trains will run on key routes than earlier this year when the timetable is extended next month.

The company added: “We know we are not delivering the service our customers rightfully expect and apologize for the immense frustration and inconvenience caused. Resolving this situation requires a robust plan that allows us to gradually expand services without relying on train crew overtime, which fell dramatically in July.

The second worst performing rail operator was Govia Thameslink Railway, which canceled 6.4% of scheduled trains over the past year, according to ORR data. TransPennine Express canceled 5.3% over the same period, rising to 5.8% in the last 12 weeks covered by the data.

The high level of cancellations comes despite several major train operators operating shorter schedules.

Avanti – named after the Italian word meaning forward – has gone backwards when it comes to train scheduling. In the 12 weeks to October 15, the company planned to run just 60% of the trains it did in the same period in 2019 – the largest reduction of any operating company. One in ten of those trains was cancelled.

Other operators operating shorter timetables include TransPennine Express and Northern Trains (both operating at 69% of 2019 levels), CrossCountry (74%) and Chiltern Railways (75%).

A Ministry of Transport spokesperson said: “It is unacceptable that poor levels of service prevent hard-working people from going about their daily lives.

“We have earmarked more than £16bn since the start of the pandemic to improve passenger services and are working closely with train operators to ensure long term solutions are in place so passengers can travel with confidence and without interruption.”

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