Rail timetable chaos inquiry concludes 'nobody took charge'

PA Wire  PA Images

PA Wire PA Images

When asked by Julia Hartley-Brewer if the transport secretary could deliver on his promise of a revolution in industry, Professor Stephen Glaister replied with "who can say?".

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) blamed a lack of "responsibility and accountability" and said passengers were "badly treated".

Although running extra trains where crew and stock permitted was a good response to passenger needs, the report said doing so without providing any prior information was unhelpful.

However, within hours of the new schedules being launched performance fell through the floor, with numerous cancellations affecting many routes in the south east and north of England.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling - who had previously insisted: "I don't run the railways" - told the BBC's Today programme that the problem was system-wide and that it was his job to "make sure it doesn't happen again".

In addition, the DfT and ORR have responsibilities "overseeing most aspects of the industry", the inquiry said - yet "neither organisation sufficiently tested the assurances that they received from the industry about the risk of disruption, despite having information and powers that would have allowed them to do so".

The biggest shake-up of Britain's railways for 20 years is being promised by the government following a turbulent year for passengers.

There was anger earlier this week when the EDP revealed the ultimate boss of GTR and Great Northern earned a £582,000 bonus on top of his £1m salary.

Over a period of several weeks, GTR and Northern cancelled up to 470 and 310 scheduled trains respectively each weekday. And neither GTR nor Northern were properly aware of or prepared for the problems in delivering the timetable and did not do enough to provide accurate information to passengers when disruption occurred, the report said. Give the Northern Powerhouse control of its own rail network.

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This pushed back the development of the timetable and gave train operators less time to prepare for the introduction of new services.

Prof Glaister told the BBC that the ORR itself had failings - like everyone else in the industry. The people who drew up the timetables and the policies simply imposed them and no-one communicated the problems.

"That led to complacency when in the process of planning the timetables - deadlines were missed, late decisions were made so that operators didn't have time to deliver a proper service on the day". "We want to learn the lessons of the May timetable disruption and will be working closely with other organisations across the rail industry to ensure new timetabling is implemented as effectively as possible for customers in the future".

And the ORR and DfT?

June 15: GTR chief executive Charles Horton resigns.

The inquiry found problems caused by delays were made worse by Network Rail, which wrongly believed it could make up the time. However, due to delayed engineering projects in north west England, Northern had to entirely re-write its May 2018 timetable in just 16 weeks.

The company added it was "deeply sorry" for the disruption, saying it had reinstated 151 of the 165 services hit by the problems. That's why we have been calling for a review and why we launched a plan previous year to deliver more for our customers, the economy, communities and our people.

A scathing report into the May timetable chaos has blasted transport secretary Chris Grayling, Network Rail, and the DfT's handling of the widespread crisis, claiming "no one took charge" when issues started to arise.

The review - led by independent chair Keith Williams, the former British Airways chief executive and deputy chairman of John Lewis Partnership - will build on the government's franchising strategy - bringing track and train closer together to reduce disruption and improve accountability, and considering regional partnerships and how we can use innovation to improve services and value for money for passengers.

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