ORR finds ‘systemic failings’ in Network Rail timetable changes

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) requires Network Rail (NR) to carry out four actions immediately to improve passenger services.

This follows an investigation that found systemic failings in NRs general management of timetable changes. The ORR said this contributed to the disruption caused by the May 20 timetable change.

ORR investigators found NR did not implement best practice into timetable planning, and this was evidenced, it said, by the need to rewrite the May timetable change seven weeks after the draft was sent to the industry in November 2017. This meant timetables could not be finalised 12 weeks in advance.

The four actions are:

  • Network Rail must provide a report to the ORR by August 31 demonstrating how it is running an efficient, fair, effective and transparent process in revising upcoming timetables. The ORR will assess progress and report on this. The revision of the December 2018 timetable means it will take longer to recover normal timescales for notifying changes to the timetable, but it is essential to establish this process as soon as possible.
  •  Network Rail must revise its recovery plan by August 31 to get timetables back to being agreed 12 weeks in advance (T-12) and for it to publicly report on progress. This will include details of any late notice changes being considered and the reasons for those changes. The ORR said NR’s timetabling resources and capability were, and continue to be, put under pressure by the increased scale of both short and long-term planning changes. Resourcing and capability of both Network Rail and industry planning teams is a risk to the delivery of future timetables.
  • Network Rail must accelerate progress on ORR-approved plans to strengthen timetabling capability and resources, including specific indicators against which the ORR will publicly report Network Rail’s progress. Network Rail will provide a first draft to us by September 17. The ORR said there needs to be better coordination between the part of NR carrying out the work (Infrastructure Projects) - and its timetabling function (System Operator). 
  • Network Rail must speed up decisions on structural reform and provide the ORR with a draft plan by September 30.

John Larkinson, ORR’s Director, Railway Markets and Economics, said: “Network Rail’s failings in the run-up to the May timetable led to massive disruption, uncertainty and inconvenience to passengers. 

“Network Rail has acted to bring the industry together to address timetabling issues but more and faster change is needed to provide assurance to passengers. That is why we have set out these actions designed to improve capability within Network Rail.

“Our ongoing broader Inquiry is looking at the role of the whole industry in the May timetabling problems and this may lead to further recommendations.”

Jo Kaye, managing director, System Operator, Network Rail, said: “We accept the findings of the ORR investigation into why timetables weren’t finalised 12 weeks in advance. It’s clear from the ORR’s investigation that the issues with timetabling go much further than Network Rail, and we welcome and look forward to the industry-wide inquiry. We remain truly sorry for the part we played in the process that caused disruption for so many people and we have learned lessons to make sure it is not repeated.

“We are already putting the ORR’s required plan into action including establishing new joint working arrangements with train operators to support development of the timetables for December 2018 and May 2019.”

Transport Focus Director David Sidebottom said: “Passengers want timetables finalised in good time - 12 weeks is the standard - so they can plan their trips with confidence and get the best-value Advance tickets. They then want the trains to run reliably. That simply hasn’t been happening on parts of the railway. Our research shows just how much of an impact both of these have had on passengers.

“Ahead of conclusions from the wider Glaister Inquiry into the recent timetable crisis, passengers will welcome focus on successful delivery of the December 2018 timetable and on getting back as soon as possible to publishing accurate information 12 weeks in advance.”

  • For the FULL story, read RAIL 859, published on August 15, and available digitally on Android/iPad from August 11.
  • For more on the latest GTR timetable, read RAIL 858, published on August 1, and now available digitally on Android/iPad.
  • For more on the timetable freeze, read RAIL 857, available digitally on Android/iPad.
  • For more on GTR, Northern and Network Rail appearing at the Transport Select Committee, read RAIL 856, available digitally on Android/iPad.

  • For more on the timetable chaos, read RAIL 855, available digitally on Android/iPad.

  • For more on the start of the timetable chaos, read RAIL 854, available digitally on Android/iPad.


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