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Train punctuality a matter of definition

Published: 24 Feb 2013 11:08 GMT+01:00

In 2012, 97 out of 100 regional and commuter train departures were on schedule, compared to 87 out of 100 in 2011, according to the Swedish Transport Administration.

But the main reason behind the improvement seems to be that the Transport Administration changed the definition of delayed journeys.

Previously, trains that arrived five or more minutes late were recorded as delayed. Now, a train can be up to 15 minutes late without being counted as late.

While the Transport Administration previously claimed that the time limit was stretched in order to bring the Swedish definition in line with European measurements, it now admits that it was the result of a deal it struck with the train industry.

The Sveriges Radio (SR) programme Kaliber found that 15 minutes is, in fact, not a standard measure for counting train delays in Europe. Reporters confronted the Transport Administration's acting CEO Caroline Ottosson with their findings.

"About a year ago we and the train industry decided to report the number of trains delayed by 15 minutes," admitted Ottosson.

"Sweden is a big country," she explained. "Many trains travel long distances and so we have chosen 15 minutes."

In January, the Transport Administration reported that "punctuality in train traffic improved somewhat last year. New figures show that 96.9 percent of departures were on schedule, an increase by a few tenths compared to 2011."

And Sweden's Minister of Infrastructure Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd told Kaliber that "Statistically speaking we now have a punctuality rate that puts us at the top in Europe."

But while transport officials claim great success rates, Swedish travellers are not too impressed with train services.

In December 2012, a Swedish Quality Index (Svenskt Kvalitetsindex) survey showed that, out of all Swedish brands, rail operator SJ had the most dissatisfied customers.

Asked if the Transport Administration has tried to find out how travellers themselves would define delays, Ottosson said "that is a question we will address within the framework of our systematic efforts to improve punctuality".

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Your comments about this article

13:01 February 24, 2013 by Mxzf
Noone that needs to be on time would take a train here, if there were any alternative at all.

Also, as a sidenote from Wikipedia:

"Japanese railways are among the most punctual in the world. The average delay on the Tokaido Shinkansen in fiscal 2006 was only 0.3 minutes. When trains are delayed for as little as five minutes, the conductor makes an announcement apologizing for the delay and the railway company may provide a "delay certificate" (遅延証明書), as no one would expect a train to be this late. "
13:31 February 24, 2013 by engagebrain
'Transport Administration changed the definition of delayed journeys'

Simpler than actually working hard to make trains run on time.

The Stockholm-Uppsala service is rubbish - and 15 minutes late on a 35-40 minute journey is substantial.

Trains are cancelled almost at random and even the tiniest layer of snow seems to be a problem. They have even cancelled the last train of the day without offering any alternative.
16:13 February 24, 2013 by johan rebel
The difference is huge. A fifteen minute delay is often sufficient for me to miss my connection, which results in a total delay of 1 or 2 hours, depending on when the next ferry leaves. So much for being "on time".

It is pretty obvious that Mussoline never ruled Sweden.
21:14 February 24, 2013 by Max Reaver
I totally agree with post #1. Having lived in Japan myself, if on the time table it says there are two minutes between two connections, you will have enough time to catch your trains. In Sweden it's not even sure with 15 minutes between two trains.

The Swedish railway system is pathetic, not only on matters of punctuality. In China, during one month around the Chinese New Year, the country's transportation has to move 2 billion people across the nation so they can reunite with their extended family over holidays. Most of them travel by train. Think about what kind of responsibility the government has. No matter what, the trains must run. I won't say you shouldn't criticize the Chinese government, as most ppl in west are indoctrinated to do. After first-hand experience of the transport-intensive one month, I'd say no democratically elected government so far has shown the same capability as the Chinese on this. The Swedish one has failed by far, every winter the trains stop and nobody takes responsibility. The Swedish minister of infrastructure has even hinted that ppl should celebrate Xmas with family another year. If a Chinese politician dares to say anything similar, there will be protests and riots in the streets. Here in Sweden, nothing.
00:16 February 25, 2013 by skogsbo
It's only a train journey, you're late for work, it doesn't matter, the world hasn't stopped turning, chill out. Japan has pumped billions into transport, would you really want their level of debt?,
11:15 February 25, 2013 by Max Reaver
So you are implying that Japan can get rid off their debt by turning their railway system into more Swedish-like? What a comedian. It's not only about getting to work late (which has been shown to affect productivity), the most annoying thing is not able to go home and left starving for hours on the commuter train. Obviously you never needed to commute between e.g. Stockholm and Uppsala, where thousands of ppl get stranded on a weekly basis as soon as snow touches ground. Next time I get stuck on a train, you give me your car keys and take my spot on the train.
16:21 February 26, 2013 by AquamanUK
I live in suburbs of London. When I moved to my home 5 years ago, the Scheduled time was 18 minutes to Paddington Station = all trains late = No season ticket discount.

The Next year, ALL trains were 23 minutes in time table for same journey - but still had a few delays.

Currently, the time table states THIRTY (30) Minutes for the journey - ie. ALL trains arrive ahead of schedule and therefore NO discounts. I am now paying 280% higher fare than when I chose my current home.

It is no longer economical to live where I live - compared to London prices when I have to pay £4500 per year for a Season Ticket!

It should also be noted, I was on a delayed departure from Paddingdon, 14 Minutes late departing, but because of the delay the Train was run at a Higher Speed, (it was capable of even higher), it arrived at my station - ONE minute before it was scheduled because it was driven at a Higher Speed.

The Line and the Trains are capable of >250kph but are run at less than
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