PPM to be recorded on punctuality of trains ‘to the minute’ by 2019

Rail companies have today said that they are working together to adopt the most transparent method for recording train punctuality in Europe by measuring services to the minute.

At present, train punctuality, or the public performance measure (PPM) is taken for when a train arrives at its termination station within five or 10 minutes of its scheduled time.

The other major change that is planned to be implemented is in measuring punctuality at every stop where passengers get on or off the train, rather than just at the final station in a journey.

Around 80% of station calls currently have the technology in place to be able to measure performance in this way, but the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has said that between now and the new punctuality benchmark being adopted, work will be done to improve this figure.

Industry leaders developed the plans for the new measure along with consumer champion Transport Focus, which hopes that adopting a more transparent performance measure will encourage a greater focus on punctuality – which is consistently a high priority for consumers.

“For the passengers, businesses and communities that rely on the railway, every minute counts,” said Paul Plummer, chief executive of the RDG.

“By adopting the most transparent measure in Europe, we want passengers to know that rail companies are putting an even greater focus on ensuring that trains are meeting the timetable, arriving to the minute and at stations along a journey,” he added.

“We are pushing ourselves to drive better punctuality because it will help to deliver a more reliable railway for the whole of Britain. Combined with the £50bn plus railway upgrade plan which will lead to 6,400 extra services a week by 2021, these new measures will help to build a better railway now and for the long term.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said that passengers wanted a reliable, on-time train service, and that the new measure aimed to deliver that for them.

“How that performance is measured and reported should, our research shows, closely mirror passengers’ real-life experience otherwise trust will not be built up,” he explained.  

“So, it is good to see the rail industry reporting on time performance at many more stations.”

Applying the new benchmark to the most recent four-week period from 28 May to 24 June, 64.8% of trains arrived to the minute and 91.7% of trains arrived within five minutes.

The measure is also displayed in a way that helps passengers understand how likely it is that trains arrive early, within three, five 10 or 15 minutes and then after 15, 20 or 30 minutes as well as the proportion of trains that were cancelled.

The new benchmark is expected to become one of the official measures for punctuality and reliability for Network Rail from April 2019 when its next funding period begins.

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J, Leicester   18/07/2017 at 13:15

About time. The current system of trains being considered "on time" if they are within 5 minutes of the timetable is too lax for a railway where connections are often far tighter. If my train is 4 minutes late and I need to connect with a train that leaves 3 minutes after my connection gets in, that delay is still classed as "on time" despite heavily inconveniencing my journey. Ok, granted, you're never going to get from one end of, say, Clapham Junction to the other in 3 minutes, but in my local patch it's a normal occurrence to miss trains that I would otherwise have caught if I had genuinely arrived "on-time".

Gabriel Oaks   18/07/2017 at 13:38

Long overdue although will train operators start to extend their journey times to build-in more slack?

Mark Hare   18/07/2017 at 15:39

J - I appreciate your point but I very much doubt that 3 minutes from one train to another would be an advertised connection, especially at a larger junction station. Advertised connection times, where they exist, have to take into account the young, old and infirm as well as someone who is happy to sprint from one platform to another to make a connection. And of course, the easiest way to give a train more chance of arriving properly 'on time', not just within 5 or 10 minutes of timetabled arrival time is to build more recovery time into the timetable. So great - passengers will arrive on time but at the cost of longer journey times.

J, Leicester   18/07/2017 at 16:06

OK, I'll rephrase what I mean, since my gripe lies more with rubbish timetable planning than with PPM issues. TOCs should be required to give ample time in timetables for regional to mainline connections. It's a really simple concept that seems alien to a lot of franchise holders. I shouldn't have to wait an extra hour because the operator didn't have the foresight to get the intercity service to leave my connecting station AFTER the local service I rely on to make that connection gets in. It's alright in London, where there's a train every 5 minutes, but not so much out in the provinces where grubby serfs like myself have to make do with lower frequencies, usually hourly to each destination and half-hourly if we're lucky. It's infuriating if, say, I'm riding from the Ivanhoe line to Sheffield and miss the train at Loughborough by a matter of 1 or 2 minutes - what's worse, I usually have to watch it pass me somewhere around Barrow on Soar or Sileby, as if to rub in my face that I'm going to have to hover around a station with relatively few amenities for an extra length of time. Ironically, the only time I actually make the connection in this scenario since the most recent timetable change is if the intercity service is late - the local train used to get in 2 minutes before it, which was doable with a dash across the footbridge if it ran to time! I accept that that's going off on a pretty big tangent though - to return to the topic, I still maintain that the 5-minute PPM leeway is flat-out lying to passengers at present. If you change trains 3 times in a longer journey and they're all 4 minutes late, you're still arriving 12 minutes behind schedule despite all services being considered "on time" in the records.

John Grant   18/07/2017 at 18:23

@Mark: The Fen Line timetable advertises a connection from the 0710 Greater Anglia arrival from King's Lynn at Cambridge with the 0715 departure to King's Cross. This morning the GA train came into platform 8 and the KGX departure was from platform 1 and actually left at 0714 1/2, which is ambitious even for someone able-bodied enough to run up the steps on the footbridge.

John Grant   18/07/2017 at 19:12

Actually, that raises another issue. In the old days when passengers opened and shut doors themselves, it made sense for departure time to be when the train started to move. Now, the cut-off time is when the doors close, and that's what should be advertised as the departure time. Going back to the effects of the new rule, will they be allowed to show an arrival time that's later than the departure time at intermediate stops? That'd be better than increasing the dwell time at every one, which might otherwise be the only way to meet the new requirement.

Andrew Gwilt   19/07/2017 at 00:22

Trenitalia c2c has been the most punctual and best train operator with better services and lesser disruption. And with extra trains used for passengers to get a seat during rush hour (more extra seats) and it's cheaper than Greater Anglia. I still think c2c is the best train operator in Essex as it has been the best train operator and the most punctual operator as it operates to & from London Fenchurch Street/Liverpool Street-Southend Central, Shoeburyness, Basildon, Tilbury Town, Pitsea, Leigh-on-Sea and Grays. Plus I use c2c a lot because it's cheaper and reliable and I don't live too far from any c2c station (Benfleet & Pitsea).

Noam Bleicher   19/07/2017 at 10:42

All the press stories so far have missed an important point. As well as moving to 'right time' punctuality reporting, all station calls will now be reported, not just the final important for TOCs like Cross Country, where most passengers don't travel all the way to the destination and where there is a bit of padding before it. That said XC are much more punctual than they used to be, mainly thanks to Andy Cooper impressing upon NR the need for right time arrivals at New Street.

Mark Hare   20/07/2017 at 12:17

@John Grant - I quite agree that advertised connections should give sufficient time for everybody to comfortably change trains. Of course in these days of privatisation and fragmentised railways, there is little chance of TOC 'A' advertising a connection with a train run by TOC 'B' and who can blame them? As far as I know, most TOCs still measure departure time as the time the train actually starts moving however in these days of central door locking / power-operated doors most TOCs advise passengers that doors will close around 30sec prior to departure in order to achieve interlock and get wheels turning precisely on time.

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