Don Foster MP*

“Last year’s rail cancellations up 45 %,” says Foster

Bath MP, Don Foster today released new figures from Parliamentary Questions showing that the number of trains cancelled on Britain’s railways rose by 45% between 2000 and 2001.

Main Image In the first 9 months of 2001, passengers were deprived of nearly 85,000 services.

Don Foster said:

“There’s only one thing worse than a delayed train. It’s a train that doesn’t turn up at all.

“On the odd journey between Bath and Oxford, you might give Thames Trains the benefit of the doubt about a cancelled service due to driver shortage. But, as commuters will suspect, the rate of cancellations for Thames Trains has rocketed 78% in the past nine months to over 3200 trains. And First Great Western aren’t exactly leading the way, with their 40% increase in cancelled services.

“Overall, the number of cancelled trains has rocketed by 45% between 2000 and 2001. That increase means that passengers lost nearly 85,000 services last year.

“Stephen Byers must now outline a clear timetable, with targets, to ensure that cancellations on the railways in 2002 will be less than they were in 2001. These can’t be simply talked away by Labour as the aftermath of Hatfield.”

Commenting on Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain’s interview in The Spectator, Don Foster MP said:

“In 1999, a Foreign Office publication said that our railways were a model for the world because ‘the customer is King’. Will the Foreign Office now be pulping its brochures?”


Notes to Editors:

• There was an increase of 45% in the number of cancellations on Britain’s railways in the first nine months of 2001 compared with 2000, with certain Train Operating Companies’ performance deteriorating at a faster rate than others. Some TOCs have reduced the number of cancellations (see table below).

League Table of rate of increase of cancellations for each Train Operating Company (comparing first 9 months of 2000 with the first 9 months of 2001) (latest figures)

2000 2001 % Increase
Gatwick Express 333 2295 589
Virgin Cross Country 234 890 280
West Anglia Great Northern 1723 5891 242
Arriva Trains Northern 6953 16289 134
First Great Eastern 898 1832 104
Valley Lines 381 775 103
Chiltern Railways 168 330 96
Thames 1803 3210 78
Central Trains 3481 5898 69
c2c 1404 2371 69
Midland Mainline 307 456 49
Wales and West 971 1440 48
First North Western 3763 5563 48
First Great Western 395 553 40
South Central 5385 7471 39
Scotrail 6508 8744 34
Virgin West Coast 382 468 23
Thameslink 1835 1942 6
Anglia 661 664 0
Connex South Eastern 7025 6590 -6
GNER 505 457 -10
South West Trains 5901 5197 -12
Silverlink 3701 2925 -21
Arriva Trains Merseyside 3771 2672 -29
Island Line 270 12 -96

Total 58758 84935 45

Figures: Calculated from statistics placed in the library of the house in answer to a written Parliamentary Question Answer to Don Foster MP: 19th December 2001

• Reprinted below, articles from April 1999 relating to the Foreign Office’s brochure.

04Apr1999 UK: Rail firms championed by Government.
BRITAIN'S privatised railways have received ringing support from the Department of Trade and Industry in a bid to help train operators win millions of pounds of business abroad.
Despite warnings from Transport Secretary John Prescott that rail companies must cut delays and cancellations, the DTI has claimed in an official brochure that on Britain's railways "the customer is king". The brochure, published in conjunction with the Foreign Office, backs rail privatisation and says that "the arrival of competition has produced a surge of talent and innovation".
The brochure, aimed at promoting British railway expertise abroad, comes in sharp contrast to the remarks of Mr Prescott at last year's Labour conference, when he branded the privatised railways "a nat-ional disgrace" and threatened to return control of the worst performers to the National Railways Board.
In February, figures showed punctuality was getting worse and ministers said passengers were getting "a poor service" from Britain's 25 train operators. The creation of a new Strategic Rail Authority earlier this year means operators risk losing government subsidies if performance does not improve.
The DTI move comes as British operators seek to enter valuable markets abroad. In Australia, the state of Victoria is privatising its railway and several UK rail firms are in the running. Recent trade delegations from New Zealand, China and Australia have sought advice from UK firms on how to im-prove their own railway sectors.
The document, "The Power of Rail", says privatisation "has transformed the attitudes of railway executives and engineers. Britain's railway companies now combine their traditional expertise with a powerful business sense. A competitive home market distinguishes Britain's railways from most other countries."
The brochure also says that Britain has experienced a 14 per cent increase in passenger volume over the past four years and a 27 per cent increase in freight volumes. "£1.2 billion was invested in upgrading track and infrastructure in 1997 alone. Another £15 billion is committed to mainline and metro by 2002," it says.
It fails to report that railway research groups, such as Transport 2000, have been calling for years for more investment in improving track and signalling.
The railway industry has welcomed the document as helpful in its search for new markets.
Source: INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY 04/04/2023 P1

04Apr1999 UK: Privatised railway is ‘a triumph’ says Labour.
By GRAEME WILSON. (Political Correspondent)

MINISTERS have been accused of rank hypocrisy after it emerged that they had produced a glossy sales brochure for foreign companies and governments that praises rail privatisation for ensuring that "the customer is king".
The document, produced jointly by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign Office, gives an effusive account of Britain's railways and offers to share expertise on privatisation with other countries.
It highlights how the sell-off has produced an "innovative environment" for Britain's trains and shows how the once under-performing industry now bustles with "energy and enthusiasm". The brochure - Releasing the Power of Rail - adds: "A competitive home market distinguishes Britain's railways from most other countries. It is a market where the customer is king."

Rail-users' groups and opposition politicians said they were staggered by the brochure. They attacked the Government for issuing stark warnings about the performance of the rail companies for public consumption at home while painting a rosy picture abroad.
Only last month Tony Blair used an unprecedented National Rail Summit in London to tell the rail companies that they were "failing their customers" and would lose their contracts unless they improved.
John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, went even further at last year's Labour Party conference when he said the service offered by the privatised rail companies was a "national disgrace".
However, the brochure makes no mention of the problems, arguing instead that Britain's rail industry "offers its customers a unique combination of modern engineering and commercial skills forged in a competitive environment".
The unquestioning support for privatisation was also contrasted with Labour's repeated attacks on the policy while in opposition.
Bernard Jenkin, the shadow transport minister, said: "Labour's focus groups told them that privatisation was `unpopular' and they have spent years attacking the system the Tories built.
"Now their rank hypocrisy has been exposed. While they still posture in front of the focus groups, behind the scenes they are lauding their inheritance from the Tories."
The brochure was drawn up by the UK Railway Sector Group, established by DTI ministers last year to promote Britain's rail expertise. The document is part of the Government's overseas trade service and will be available to foreign governments and companies and at international trade fairs.
Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrats' transport spokesman, said: "This brochure has clearly not been written by anyone who uses the railways. If everything was so wonderful, why is John Prescott constantly being forced to berate the companies who run our trains?"
Keith Bill, the national secretary of the pressure group Save Our Railways, said: "It's absolutely breathtaking. Fortunately, many foreign rail companies come to us to get the other side of the argument and without exception they are opting for the Swiss system - a well-run, well-financed public system which offers a much better service to passengers." However, the brochure was backed by David Bertram, the chairman of the Central Rail Users' Consultative Committee, set up by the Government to represent passengers. He said: "I'm optimistic about our railways. The number of problems is reducing and for the first time this century we have seen a real growth in passenger numbers."
The document was also applauded by the Railway Forum, the body set up last year by the rail companies. A spokesman said: "We welcome the Government's assistance in promoting Britain's railways abroad but we are under no illusions. We will only start to enjoy the full confidence of ministers when we can show we are overcoming the difficulties."


EXTRACTS from Releasing the Power of Rail, the sales brochure produced by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign Office to persuade foreign governments and companies of the expertise available to them from among Britain's privatised rail services:
"A competitive home market distinguishes Britain's railways from most other countries. It is a market where the customer is king."
"Britain's railways have experienced a revolution in thinking as well as massive new investment. There is new energy and enthusiasm in the industry."
"The result [of privatisation] is an innovative environment, as well as a cost-effective one."

"Britain's engineers and operators already benefit from world-class training and long experience of collaborating with overseas railway companies. Privatisation has strengthened their capabilities."
"There are now 25 train-operating companies, instead of just one. These not only compete with each other for passengers; they seek out the best offers from railway suppliers and consultants."
"The motor vehicle has become a victim of its own success ... trains are cleaner, safer, faster."


"YOU are failing your customers and those who continue to fail them have no place in the rail of the future." Tony Blair's warning to rail companies at the National Rail Summit in London, Feb 1999
"In too many companies punctuality, reliability and overall quality have deteriorated and that isn't something we are going to tolerate because the passengers deserve better." John Reid, Transport Minister, Nov 1998
"The performance of our privatised railways is by common consent a national disgrace, with service reductions, failing performance and increased fares." John Prescott, speech to the Labour Party conference, Sept 1998
"This is a system that certainly is breaking down. It is not effective. It has created a record level of a million complaints alongside a record level of millionaire railway men." John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, Aug 1998
"Today I reassert Labour's commitment to a publicly owned, publicly accountable railway." Andrew Smith, Labour's transport spokesman,
Oct 1996
Labour is "deeply opposed to rail privatisation ... Labour is committed to a publicly owned and publicly accountable railway." Consensus for Change, Labour's transport policy document,
June 1996.
(c) Telegraph Group Limited, London, 1999.
Source: SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 04/04/2023 P15

This article published: 18/09/2023

Published by Bath Liberal Democrats, 31 James St West, Bath, BA1 2BT. Printed and hosted by JPC Infonet, 2 St Georges Works, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8AA. Your Privacy._blank

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