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Why is it hard to run trains on time? 

Britain’s railway is one of the most congested in Europe. Passengers have doubled in the last 20 years and we’re running around 1.6 million more services each year – so, we’re squeezing more people and more trains onto, essentially, the same amount of track.  

So, while the number of individual incidents causing a delay is falling, the number of trains being delayed has increased because the smallest thing going wrong is having a massive knock-on effect. 

We are working hard together day in, day out to improve punctuality, however. And we’re also supporting major improvements like HS2, which will ease congestion and help to improve punctuality. 


What is the railway doing to improve punctuality? 

We know that punctuality is a top priority for passengers. Train companies and Network Rail are working together on the ground locally and at a national level to make trains more punctual.  

Ultimately, the solution is to ease congestion on the network by increasing capacity. In recent years, we’ve widened bottlenecks, like at Reading, and untangled tracks, like outside London Bridge. We’ve built flyovers and dive-unders and introduced digital signalling. But we’re also working on simpler operational measures. 

For example, we’re reviewing timetables to make sure they are realistic and consistently deliverable, working with organisations like Samaritans to reduce incidents of suicide on the network and running awareness campaigns to reduce trespass.  

Why do rail lines close during bank holidays/weekends/Christmas? 

Network Rail works together with train operators to minimise the disruption to passengers and freight operators during improvement works. This is why that work is timed to be carried out when up to half as many people are travelling by train, such as national holidays and at weekends. 

You can find out more at Network Rail's delays explained 


Why are services disrupted (as explained by Network Rail) by: 

What are the knock-on effects of a delay? 

Britain’s railway is one of the busiest in Europe, with no space for additional trains at peak time on some routes so a small delay can have a massive knock-on effect on other services, sometimes hundreds of miles away.

Network Rail explains more on their website.

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