MPs blame complex rail system for timetable chaos

7 Dec 18

Poor leadership and the “astonishing complexity” of the rail system lead to a “totally unacceptable” disruption to rail services earlier this year, MPs said.

The Commons transport select committee called for a freeze on rail fares for passengers who were affected by rail timetable chaos in May this year.

The committee concluded the crisis was partly due to the “astonishing complexity of a fragmented railway in which inter-related private train companies, operating on public-owned and managed infrastructure, having competing commercial interests”.

The report, published on 4 December, suggested the government should set up an independent body to oversee timetable changes in future.

“Our clear view is that the national rail timetabling process requires genuinely independent oversight,” the report said.

The MPs also called for the appointment of an independent project sponsor to oversee changes.

“We believe this role would need to be located outside of Network Rail, so that it is more effectively insulated from commercial and political pressures,” they said.

The timetable upheaval involved 42,300 changes to services, affecting 46% of all passenger services on the network.

Last week it was announced that rail fares would rise by 3.1% starting in January 2019.  

The committee report said: “We urge the rail industry and the government to consider all options to keep any regulated fares increase in 2019 to a minimum. Northern, TransPennine Express, Thameslink, and Great Northern’s 2018 season ticket holders should receive a discount, equivalent to any increase announced this year, on renewed season tickets in 2019”.

Transport committee chair Lilian Greenwood said: “It is extraordinary, and totally unacceptable, that no-one took charge of the situation and acted to avert the May timetabling crisis.

“Instead of experiencing the benefits much-needed investment in our railways, around one in five passengers experienced intensely inconvenient and costly disruption to their daily lives.

“While the need for fundamental reform is beyond doubt, passengers cannot wait until 2020 for key lessons to be learned and reforms implemented”.

Greenwood said the 3.1% fare increase for 2019 – announced after the report was finalised – “adds insult to passengers’ injury”.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling told the commons in June that passengers would be compensated for the disruptions.

Did you enjoy this article?