Train operators believe government has caused unneccessary damage to their public image with publication of data on crowding and punctuality

Relations have soured between Britain’s train operators and transport minister Norman Baker over the government’s approach to the industry’s public image.

TOCs were unhappy at the Department for Transport’s publication of England’s 10 most overcrowded train services last month. Releasing the list, Baker offered his sympathy to users of the services and told train operators to do more to tackle the issue. Senior industry figures said the statement was “outrageous” in the light of delays to DfT’s programme to introduce new rolling stock and its control over franchise specifications.

They called for a rethink in the way ministers present information to prevent unnecessary reputational damage to TOCs and prevent the public gaining an unrealistic expectation of their ability to resolve problems which are largely outside their control.

TOCs also believe that their image could also be harmed by the publication of Right Time Performance data. In response to the government’s transparency agenda, Network Rail published figures for individual TOCs on its website last month. The figures show the percentage of trains that arrive within 59 seconds of their scheduled time, instead of the 5/10-minute leeway allowed by the established Passenger Performance Measure (PPM).

Baker angered TOCs last month when he said: “It is totally dishonest to say trains are punctual when for short distance and journeys they can arrive within four minutes and 59 seconds and for long distance they can be within nine minutes and 59 seconds and still count as being officially on time. Taxpayers and passengers deserve better than this.”

TOCs claim that the right time data creates an unflattering and misleading comparison with journeys by air and road.


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