Update: British Train Services "Back to Normal"

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BBC

Rail passengers have been told they can look forward to normal services from Monday - seven months after the Hatfield crash threw the network into chaos.

Train companies are starting their full summer timetables and are promising to run four out of five services on time.

The improved service does depend on work being carried out successfully this weekend, but when it is finished passengers should face less disruption.

However, there are still problems on key Intercity routes, which are not performing as well as they did before the accident.

Milestone

The introduction of summer timetables is an important milestone for the rail industry.

Every train operator now has a full service rather than the emergency services that were brought in when the network was crippled by more than a thousand speed restrictions.

Even so it does not mean an end to late trains. The latest statistics, not yet published by train companies, show that last weekend nearly half of all Intercity services were at least 10 minutes late.

Railtrack says the Hatfield episode has been humbling, but the whole industry now recognises the need to rebuild its image in the mind of frazzled passengers.

This has not been helped by fare rises introduced by some operators in an attempt to recoup the revenue lost following last October's crash.

Fare rises

Virgin Trains was roundly condemned for increasing the price of its standard tickets by up to 9.8% recently.

Since then, the company has negotiated an extra 15m in compensation from Railtrack for the disruption caused by the repair programme following Hatfield.

Even so, the fare increases remain in place, though Virgin is offering cheaper book-in-advance fares to make amends.

Other companies, such as Midland Mainline, are increasing fares by up to 5%. Only Virgin has so far admitted that it is passing the cost of the chaos during the past six months onto the passengers.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), May 20, 2001


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