§ Mr. Pickthall
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what is his Department's latest assessment of trends in rail performance. 
§ Mrs. Liddell
My Department has today published the latest quarterly Bulletin of Rail Statistics, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.
Comparing the fourth quarter of 1998–99 with the fourth quarter of 1997–98, punctuality fell from 93.3 per cent. to 92.5 per cent. This is an unacceptable decline in performance. At the Rail Summit in February this year, rail companies agreed to improve performance year on year.
A calculation error made in 1996 means that the figures for national average punctuality have previously been understated. This does not affect the percentage punctuality figures that have been published for individual operating companies. The reliability figures are also unaffected.
However, current measures, including the corrected figures in this Bulletin, remain misleading. They are derived from Passenger Charter statistics, which do not cover all services and allow operators to disregard days ("void days") on which performance is very bad. The shadow Strategic Rail Authority are currently consulting on an improved measure of punctuality and reliability to be finalised this Autumn.
Punctuality is just one of a number of factors considered important by passengers. The new National Passenger Survey will ensure that all major passenger concerns will be monitored for each TOC. This will allow precise identification of areas for improvement and give passengers a voice in the running of the railway. First results from the National Passenger Survey will be published by the end of the year.