Rail timetable chaos: Government defers full response until after Williams Review

18 February 2019

The Transport Committee publishes a special report containing the responses from the Department for Transport, and the Office of Road and Rail, to its Report on Rail timetable changes: May 2018.

The Committee’s Report on the May 2018 Rail timetable changes called for swift reform to restore passengers’ trust following a prolonged period of intensely inconvenient, costly and potentially dangerous disruption for passengers across the north of England, in London and the south.

The timetable change saw an unprecedented change of around four times the usual scale, involving 43,200 individual changes and affecting 46% of passenger services. Coming on the back of major infrastructure works, the system could not cope. The Committee concluded there was a collective, system-wide failure across Network Rail, the privately-owned train operating companies, the Department for Transport and the Office of Road and Rail.

Chair's comment

The Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said:

“I welcome the fact that the Government has accepted the need for change to the process for rail timetable changes. And I’m pleased that the Department and the ORR have taken on board our recommendations about support for disabled passengers.

However, despite our pleas on behalf of passengers for swift reform and clear lines of accountability – the Department for Transport fails to clarify where responsibility for national rail timetabling will lie, whether it will be independent, or if rail franchisees will have to sign up to best practice. Unsurprisingly, there is no comment on the lack of leadership from the Department or the Secretary of State.

We are publishing both the Department for Transport and Office of Road and Rail responses together and people can judge for themselves the extent to which the DfT actually addresses the conclusions and recommendations from our Report.  

Most disappointing of all, is the decision to defer any substantive response to our recommendations until after the outcome of the Williams Review, some two years after the 2018 May disruption. The Review is important, but I think the Department has missed an opportunity to show that passengers truly are at the top of its priorities. At the time when passengers are looking for reassurance that effective, independent oversight will bring genuine change, there is none to be found and instead the can is kicked a bit further down the track.” 

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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