Elizabeth line loses its crown as UK’s most punctual railway

The Elizabeth line fell to second on the UK punctuality table  (Handout)
The Elizabeth line fell to second on the UK punctuality table (Handout)

The Elizabeth line has lost its crown as the UK’s most punctual railway.

Latest figures from the Office of Rail and Road show that only 82.5 per cent of its trains arrived on time between April and June – down 5.6 points on the first three months of the year.

This meant the Elizabeth line fell from first to second place in the national train punctuality league table.

It is the latest indication of the signalling and reliability problems that have been affecting the 73-mile line, especially west of Paddington, in the wake of the introduction of “through running” of trains – from one end of the line to the other – and an increase in peak frequencies to 24 trains an hour.

Last week separate ORR data revealed the £20bn line, which links Reading and Heathrow with Shenfield and Abbey Wood via central London, had the most cancellations in the country – 9.1 per cent of services.

The Elizabeth line is the busiest train line in the country, carrying more than 700,000 passengers a day at the busiest times. About 4.1m journeys a week are made on the line.

Greater Anglia trains were the most punctual, with 87.7 per cent arriving on time. Punctuality also declined on the London Overground to 75.6 per cent, down 3.5 points.

Nationally, only three train firms improved their performance – Greater Anglia, Merseyrail and West Midlands Trains.

GoVia Thameslink Railway, the UK’s biggest rail franchise, which runs Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and the Gatwick Express, saw its punctuality fall by 6.1 points to 62.7 per cent.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of London TravelWatch, said: “It’s incredibly disappointing to see that train services have become less reliable over the past year. Nearly every train operator serving London has got worse in terms of punctuality.

“If we want to encourage more people back to using rail then we need to see a concerted effort by industry to improve performance. Passengers will rightly expect to see these improvements on the ground sooner rather than later.”

The ORR report said the big annual increase in the number of Elizabeth line trains – up 38.5 per cent on a year earlier – had to be taken into account when considering punctuality. The line opened through central London in May last year, but operated as TfL rail from Paddington and Liverpool Street prior to the opening.

Glynn Barton, TfL’s chief operating officer, said: “We’re proud that the Elizabeth line and London Overground are two of the top four operators nationally in terms of on time services between April and June this year.

“Although this is slightly lower than the same period in 2022, we moved from TfL Rail and opened the Elizabeth line in May 2022 and are pleased that we have been able to increase the services on both networks over the past year at a time when other rail companies have reduced their timetables.

“We continue to work with all parties involved in the Elizabeth line and London Overground to provide safe and reliable railways while encouraging people back onto the transport network.”

Across the railways, punctually declined when compared with the same three-month period a year ago. A total of 70.7 per cent of trains arrived “on time” – down 1.9 points.

But there were more trains planned – up five per cent, to 1.8 million. This is still below the pre-pandemic figure of two million trains.

Trains are more punctual than they were before the pandemic.

The PPM (public performance measure) punctuality figure was down two points to 87.6 per cent. This counts the number of trains that arrive at their final destination within five or 15 minutes of the timetabled time, depending on the service.

There were five strikes between April and June – three by Aslef and two by the RMT. This was fewer than previously, helping to increase the number of available trains.

There were five “severely disrupted days” that caused widespread cancellations or delays. These included a power failure at Waterloo on April 13 that resulted in more than 550 cancellations, and an incident at Farringdon when a child’s scooter fell on to the tracks on June 10 and damaged the running rail – causing two hours of delays.