Train delays are a topic as old as time (well, the nineteenth century in reality) and a common cause for rants on social media. But do train delays and cancellations occur as much as the impression various users on social networks might give?

LSAP MP Yves Cruchten submitted a parliamentary question on train delays and in his response, Minister of Mobility and Public Works, Francois Bausch, provided a number of statistics.

The statistics reveal a different image to the frustrations of varying Twitter or Facebook users. In theory, the punctuality rate of CFL trains for the last year was 89% with an average delay time of only two minutes.

How is the punctuality rate calculated?

However, these statistics do not provide as full a picture as one would think. Cancellations, for example, are not part of the calculation of the punctuality rate.

The calculation of how punctual trains on average are is as follows: the sum of trains arriving at their destination with delays of under six minutes divided by the sum of trains arriving at the destination with delays over six minutes.

Bausch's response also detailed that there were two periods over the last year which caused concern in terms of punctuality. The first was in the spring of 2018, in which the French SNCF industrial action took place over a long period.

The consequence of the industrial action was around 2,000 cancellations of the 90 train line.

The second period of concern was the begin of the academic year in 2018, as there were a number of issues on the train line between Luxembourg and Arlon due to railworks in Belgium.

Causes of delays and cancellations

Bausch's response also broke down the causes of the CFL's delays. The biggest cause, according to the CFL's statistics, is the so-called domino effect, which accounted for 39% of delays. This effectively accounts for delays caused by one train being delayed in turn affecting the next train.

16% of train delays were caused by external factors and 5% of delays were due to people or animals near the train tracks as well as police interventions.

As for cancellations, a third of cancellations were caused by external issues such as strikes, cars stuck at the barriers, incidents in which people or animals were hit by trains, or damage caused by snow or floods. These causes of cancellations have risen by 10% in the last year.

A further third of cancellations were due to unavailable train material. The final third of cancellations were due to technical errors and issues on other train networks.

The minister spoke of the CFL's daily challenge to remain on top of the increasing number of customers and the network's current 'star formation' surrounding the capital which causes bottlenecks at times.

At peak times, the network's capacities become saturated.

To deal with the increasing demand, especially with next year's introduction of free public transport, the government will be introducing 34 new trains in 2021.