Rail boss predicts end of train timetables

Timetables will become irrelevant for much of Britain's railway in the next 10 years, according to a rail chief.

Increased services mean performance should be judged by frequency rather than trains running to set times, Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy said.

In a speech to rail industry leaders, he called for more stations to copy Glasgow Central in altering departure boards to show the number of minutes until the next train instead of scheduled times.

Sir Peter said: "The Tube isn't measured by timekeeping but by average waiting time and lost customer hours.

"I predict in 10 years' time much of our railway will be measured in the same way."

He called for the railway to embark on a major change in focus to coincide with the upcoming rise in metro-style turn-up-and-go services, such as on the Great Western Main Line and Thameslink routes.

Describing passengers as "clever people", he said: "Increasingly they will measure their journey not by timetable adherence but by regularity - average wait - and by journey length."

Sir Peter told the audience that passengers will replicate the habits of London Underground users in not considering timetables.

Giving the example of increased frequencies on Bristol trains, he said: "Will people look at a timetable? Unlikely. These services will be more frequent than the outer end of the Metropolitan line."

The former commissioner of Transport for London raised doubts about whether penalty structures used by train operators create "the right behaviours".

Government-owned Network Rail, which is responsible for managing tracks, makes payments to train companies based on the length of delays for issues such as infrastructure faults, vandalism or bad weather.

Sir Peter questioned whether this is the best approach if "overall service reliability" is what most affects the total revenue of the network.

He also called for "more flexibility" in rail franchises, which currently incentivise operators to keep costs down even at the expense of performance.

Sir Peter said: "If extra drivers create greater service reliability then they shouldn't be regarded as an extra cost, they should be easily balanced against the better revenue a reliable service generates."

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