FOI reveals that 21 per cent of LNER’s last trains from London to Sunderland don’t make it all the way

Photo: PA Images

A recent Freedom of Information request has revealed that 21 per cent trains on the LNER’s final daily service from London King’s Cross to Sunderland trains don’t reach the final stop.

The FOI request sent to London North East Railway confirmed that between January 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019 the 20:00 train from London King’s Cross to Sunderland was scheduled to run 445 times. However, on 94 occasions the train didn’t reach its final destination, Sunderland.

The 8pm train is the last direct train of the day to Sunderland from London King’s Cross and statistically there is just over a one in five chance of the train not reaching Sunderland.

When approached for comment a spokesperson for LNER, said: “Due to the short time available between the scheduled arrival time of our London King’s Cross service reaching Sunderland and the process for Sunderland station closing each night, we provide alternative road transport from Durham to Sunderland if the train is running approximately 20 minutes late to ensure our customers reach their destination as close as possible to the scheduled arrival time.”

The 8pm London King’s Cross train is scheduled to arrive at Sunderland train station for 11:23pm. With Sunderland station closing at midnight every day it appears LNER’s contingency plan is a pre-emptive strike to ensure customers aren’t left stranded.

This contingency plan has had to be relied on 94 times from January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019. When asked what caused 21 per cent of trains to not reach Sunderland the LNER spokesperson said: “Several extreme weather incidents took place along with infrastructure faults beyond our control. As we work to introduce new, more reliable Azuma trains, replacing all of the existing fleet, we look forward to performance improving.”

Dennis Fancett, Press Spokesman for Railfuture North East, the national independent pro-rail campaign organisation stated: “20 per cent of trains failing to reach their destination is completely unacceptable and gives rise to loss of confidence in the rail industry as a whole. Passengers don’t want bus substitution, and putting people on buses because the train station has closed is a complete nonsense.

“Keep the station open – even if unstaffed – as happens at hundreds of locations elsewhere across the country. I suspect that in addition, daytime trains have been turned back short of their final destination to allow train operators to keep trains on schedule for their return journey, but whilst this fixes a short term problem, it does create the bigger issue of loss of passengers from the rail network altogether which is more difficult to fix.

“I urge train operators to put customers first in their operational planning”.

The Azuma trains which entered service this year on May 15th have been rolled out in Newcastle but there is no indication of an exact date for roll-out in Sunderland. There will be 65 Azuma trains rolled out in total replacing LNER’s current fleet of 45 trains. Using Japanese bullet train technology, built by Hitachi’s UK manufacturing team in County Durham, the Azuma train is said to travel faster than their current fleet, therefore cutting travel time and hopefully reducing the number of trains not reaching Sunderland.

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