It’s about time to be on time

06 November 2015

New report reveals gulf between what passengers and rail industry consider ‘late’.

Differences between what passengers think about ‘on time’ trains and what the rail industry currently delivers is contributing to lower passenger satisfaction.

The research, by Transport Focus in partnership with the Office of Rail and Road found:

  • passengers expect ‘on time’ to mean a train arriving within one minute of the scheduled time, not the current industry standard of five minutes (or 10 minutes for long-distance trains)
  • there is low awareness of the current performance measures and a lack of trust in how the rail industry measures train punctuality
  • for every minute of lateness, that is, after scheduled arrival time, overall passenger satisfaction declines by one and a half percentage points. Among commuters the decline in overall satisfaction is steeper at three percentage points per minute of lateness.

Anthony Smith, Transport Focus’s chief executive, said: 

“Passengers want their trains actually on time, not up to five or 10 minutes late.

“With passengers now paying over 60 per cent of the cost of the railway through fares, it’s about time their views about punctuality are listened to.

“Better day-to-day train performance will help passengers trust the promises made by the rail industry – delivering the timetable is key to building trust.”

The Office of Rail and Road does already use right time punctuality data to monitor the rail industry’s performance. Right time data was introduced as a performance indicator for the rail industry in April 2014 and the regulator takes it into consideration when analysing punctuality and service performance across Britain’s rail network.

This report provides ORR with valuable insight into passengers’ views on the punctuality of their train services. The report, along with other industry research, will inform ORR’s work with governments and industry in developing measures of performance for the future.


Transport Focus is pleased to have worked with Office of Rail and Road, to produce this research Train punctuality: the passenger perspective. 

This report combines two studies on passengers’ views of train punctuality.

The first is new research into views about train performance – punctuality and cancellations – and how it should be measured.

The second is an analysis of existing data on the relationship between a passenger’s actual punctuality and their satisfaction with the journey in question. We looked at the relationship between actual punctuality experienced and how satisfied 10,849 passengers were when they took part in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) between 2012 and 2014.


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