Timetable chaos prompts major rail review: All you need to know

The “most significant” review of Britain’s railways since privatisation has been launched. Here is all you need to know about the timetable fiasco and what the sweeping review will cover:

Timetable chaos

An inquiry by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) regulator into the May 20 timetable change that sparked weeks of disruption for passengers has found “nobody took charge”. Services in the north and south-east of England were crippled by the botched initiative.

  • 470: Weekday GTR services cancelled at peak
  • 310: Weekday Northern services cancelled at peak
  • More than 30,000: Weekly delay minutes to GTR services
  • Nearly 50,000: Weekly delay minutes to Northern services

The ORR said the disruption had inflicted a “significant financial and emotional cost to those passengers affected, directly impacting upon their work and families and in some circumstances their personal safety”.

Was no-one in charge?

The ORR found the way the industry is arranged does not support “clarity of decision-making”. It was “unclear who was responsible for what”, the regulator said of the meltdown. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has previously insisted: “I don’t run the railways.”

Who is to blame them?

The ORR concluded Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Northern, the Department for Transport (DfT) and the ORR itself all made mistakes.

What did Network Rail do wrong?

As owners and operators of railway infrastructure in England, Wales and Scotland, Network Rail manages timetabling. The ORR said its unit responsible for producing timetables did not have a sufficient method of working to manage the scale of changes required.

Network Rail stock
Network Rail runs the network infrastructure and manages timetabling (PA)

How about GTR and Northern?

Theses companies run the trains. GTR and Northern cancelled up to 470 and 310 scheduled trains respectively each weekday during the disruption. The companies were not “properly aware or prepared” for the problems, the ORR said. The companies also did not do enough to provide accurate information to passengers when disruption occurred.

And the ORR and DfT?

They failed to sufficiently examine the assurances they received from the industry about the risk of disruption.

RAIL Punctuality
(PA)

What is the regulator doing now?

An ORR review will consider all parts of the sector, including accountability, the franchising system and value for money for passengers and taxpayers. A report is expected to be published in 2019.

What happens after that?

The Government says it will publish a white paper on the review’s recommendations. Reforms are expected to be implemented from 2020.

What have people said about the review?

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald declared that passengers “don’t need another review from the Tories to tell them that rail is broken”. The party has pledged to take the railways back under public control.

Darren Shirley, head of the Campaign for Better Transport, said the railway is “not working for passengers” in its current form, adding that the review must lead to “much-needed” reform of fares, ticketing and the franchising system.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) – which represents the industry, said the review must look at “every part of the railway” and focus on “what works best for customers and taxpayers”.

And Chris Grayling?

The Transport Secretary will hope the rail review will reduce calls to stop private firms running services. He accepted that the railway “needs reform to prioritise its passengers” and noted plans for closer partnerships between track and train operators on the East Coast and South Eastern routes.

How about the timetable?

The shake-up was supposed to increase frequency and reliability by rescheduling more than four million trains across Britain. The introduction of additional services and extra capacity on parts of Britain’s railways by the end of the year has now been delayed. A “more cautious approach” will be taken to ensure passengers can “plan their journeys with confidence”, the RDG has said.