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Rail industry told to put passengers first after timetable chaos

UK News | Published:

Professor Stephen Glaister said passengers were ‘let down by the rail industry on 20 May and the weeks that followed’.

An inquiry into the train timetable chaos has recommended that the interests of passengers should be a “central consideration” for future major projects.

The review by Office of Rail and Road (ORR) chairman Professor Stephen Glaister called for the rail industry to improve how information is provided to customers.

Government-owned company Network Rail has also been ordered by the ORR to publish a plan explaining how it will evaluate the way new services are added to timetables.

The recommendations form the second phase of the review. The first phase considered the causes of the disruption after the May timetable launch and led to criticism of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling after it was found that “nobody took charge”.

Prof Glaister said: “Passengers were let down by the rail industry on 20 May and the weeks that followed.

“We found systemic failures that needed to be resolved in order to reduce the possibility that passengers have to endure these conditions again.

“Our recommendations will now mean that, in every project, impact on passengers will be a central consideration – as it should always be.

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“We are pleased with the improvements that have been made so far and expect our recommendations, which can be implemented immediately, to bring more benefits.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, called for Govia Thameslink Railway to introduce automated delay repay as part of the improvements it has been ordered to deliver.

He went on: “Someone must be clearly in charge of major timetable changes in future to ensure robust oversight and with the power to hit the stop button when something is clearly not going to work.”

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Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was criticised over the disruption (Victoria Jones/PA)

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The Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he had apologised “many, many times across the summer for what happened”, adding: “Clearly we did not ask tough enough questions.”

The Department for Transport has launched a review by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams to consider all parts of the rail industry.

Prof Glaister added: “More fundamental changes are needed in the longer term, which is the subject of the Williams Review. The ORR will contribute to that review.”

Rail timetables will be changed again on Sunday but fewer adjustments than normal are being made in the wake of May’s problems.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: “Passengers were badly let down in May and we apologise for the part we played in that.

“Network Rail is fully committed to working closely with our industry partners to return performance to the levels our passengers expect and deserve and making sure our capacity to deliver change matches those expectations as well.

“We agree that a whole-system approach to timetable planning and implementation, with effective oversight and accountability, is the way forward.”

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