GWR and Network Performance — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 5th February 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth 9:30 am, 5th February 2019

Indeed; aspects of the process, including which services are covered and where the investment goes, can be confusing for passengers and for our constituents.

I will come back to train delays and cancellations, which are one of the primary concerns that my constituents contact me about. Claire told me,

“At least I've been able to take my booked trains this year. Last year 50% of the trains on which I'd booked a seat were cancelled.”

LZ said,

“Appalling, over-priced service. For nearly 2 months in October and November 2018 I travelled between Frome and Bristol 4 times a week…and it was ON TIME just 3 times! The carriages are dirty, too cold in the winter and in the summer trains were cancelled for being too hot.”

The House of Commons Library briefing that I mentioned absolutely confirms that performance has seriously deteriorated. It says that in the last four quarters, fewer than 85% of GWR services have arrived at their final destination within five minutes of their scheduled arrival time.

Research by Which?—interestingly, it just opened a support office in my constituency—ranked GWR 20th out of 30 UK train companies for commuter rail services, with an overall customer score of just 47%. It received just two stars for punctuality and value for money, which are both critical aspects of train travel. When ranked for leisure rail services, GWR also ranked 20th out of 30, and achieved a slightly higher—although not very good—customer score of 56%.

The latest statistics from GWR’s own website, for 9 December to 5 January, show that only 90.7% of trains were punctual within their five minutes on-time allowance—below GWR’s own target for punctuality. That is extraordinary. The reasons for those delays—based on my investigations and conversations with different stakeholders—appear to be a series of problems, including delays and overruns of electrification works; staff shortages and aspects of staff training, to which inadequate time is dedicated; failures of new rolling stock, with the DFT introducing new trains without an adequate testing period; and delays in delivery while old stock was transferred early to Scotland, which left no contingency.

There is also another series of issues to do with communication and confusion among the different parts of this convoluted system, between which a blame game has developed. GWR will blame Network Rail and the Department for Transport; Hitachi will blame the Department and GWR; Network Rail will say, “It’s not us, guv, it’s the GWR franchise owners and the Department for Transport.” That is simply not good enough. In a tweet, the Welsh Labour leader of Newport City Council said to me that the high fares, such as a £200 return from Newport to London, are

“outrageous, especially when you have to stand all the way to Swindon on the return journey.”

She also mentioned the delays and cancellations.