24 January, 2011

Network Rail - On time percentages

Earlswood Snow - No trains
I guess it's time to have another moan about commuting by railway, not that there is any chance of replacing it with an alternative (for me), frankly there is no way on earth I could get hold of another mode of transport (I'm talking buying/insuring/taxing/maintaining/parking and fuelling) that would get me (even if as erractically) in and out of Canary Wharf (from deepest darkest Surrey) for two grand a year...just to put you in the picture - simply to park around here (not even in the Wharf, but a short hop away) costs between £1300-1900 a year (and may involve paying for the DLR on top)...so I understand the price I pay for my travel is (grrr through gritted teeth) "reasonable" in comparison to the alternatives...
Oxted Station
However, what I do find deeply insulting, is the way network rail (year after year) churn out their figures stating the number of trains that have run on time and it bears *absolutely* no relation to any of my commuter experiences. This years proudly announced figure for December trains was that (on average) 81% ran on time (a number that made me laugh out loud, spitting tea all over my keyboard when I read it - considering the number of days that both Earlswood and Oxted stations were completely *closed*), but if we start to burrow down, it's actually very easy to see how they have reached this conclusion - "on time" is defined as "anything under five minutes late" (which, apart from -one day- in the last two months is *every train I take* - that would make their "on time" total for me to less than 0.01% if it were actually accurate - actually catching my connecting services *relies* upon them being delayed too - day after day, night after night), it also, and most insultingly (considering no-one could care any less about them)
takes into account *every single train*, yep, all those trundling stopping services that pootle along early in the morning, all day long and late into the evening - *completely empty*...well, I say completely empty - the laughing college kids on their way home after morning lectures, the old dears on their way for a bit of shopping in Sutton, the chattering tourists - not a great deal of these people are going to care (hugely) if their train is even ten minutes late to their destination (assuming they notice in the first place), but obviously these trains rarely are late, as not many people have to pack onto them nor struggle to get off them again...

The figure which should be reported is the only one anyone actually cares about - What percentage of peak time commuter services arrived on time? We don't want the "there, there - patted on the head" number that's been gently massaged into feeling better about itself - "oh, don't worry too much about the important trains (which are always delayed) that everyone relies upon, let's just make it "all better now" by adding in all the empty ones, there look - that's much better"...!

It's a great example of "Lies, damned lies and statistics"... ಠ_ಠ

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