Rail firms accused of keeping passengers in the dark over timetable changes

Rail firms are failing to give passengers enough information about the ongoing delay in finalising timetables, a regulator has warned.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has ordered operators to make "urgent improvements" after discovering they are not contacting passengers who have bought tickets for trains which are subsequently altered.

Most train company websites are also not alerting customers to which services remain unconfirmed, meaning passengers may not be able to plan journeys "with a reasonable degree of assurance", the ORR said.

The majority of train journeys in Britain are only being confirmed six weeks beforehand - rather than the usual 12 - due to a series of issues including delays to Network Rail infrastructure projects such as electrification work between Manchester and Preston.

The problem is expected to last for approximately six months.

ORR deputy director for consumers Stephanie Tobyn said: "ORR's monitoring has shown that train companies are not always giving passengers good enough information to help them plan their journey.

"This is not acceptable and that is why we have written to all train companies requiring them to set out how they will put this right."

An unusually high number of timetable changes were already planned to come into force from May 20 due to the introduction of new trains and services, but industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) insisted in February that "the scale of this change was being managed" before the issues with infrastructure projects emerged.

Network Rail said the decision to delay timetables "hasn't been taken lightly", adding: "We recognise this will be inconvenient for some passengers and can only apologise that we've had to take this step."

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: "The timetable on some parts of the railway just can't be relied on. The rail industry must do more to warn passengers about inaccurate timetables so they can plan their journeys.

"We're calling on all train operators and ticket websites like Trainline to give passengers clearer warning if their journey will be by a replacement bus or simply will not run."

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