Damning report reveals causes of train timetable chaos

Transport watchdog says Network Rail, two train operators and Department of Transport ‘all made mistakes’

Train on track
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Delays and cancellations stemming from changes to national train timetables this summer occurred because “nobody took charge” of the reform, an inquiry has concluded.

This year’s amendments to train services across Britain amounted to the biggest timetable overhaul in UK history - and “led to the cancellation of almost 800 services a day”, according to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

The transport watchdog blamed the chaos on the lack of “responsibility and accountability” shown by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Northern Rail, Network Rail and the Department of Transport (DOT), saying they “had all made mistakes”.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Passengers had been “badly treated” and “not properly warned” of the severity of potential disruptions to their usual train services, despite train company bosses and the DOT being aware of the possible problems before the overhaul began, the ORR said.

The department’s chairman, Professor Stephen Glaister, said: “Good intentions and over-optimism within the rail industry about its ability to recover missed deadlines left no time to uncover and fix problems.

“When problems arose, timetable planners were stretched and train operators were ill-equipped to help passengers.”

Train operators’ “response to the chaos as it unfolded in late May and early June was also criticised” by Glaister, who took aim at GTR’s decision to “delete trains from schedules at the last minute rather than listing them on station screens as cancelled”, The Times reports.

MPs are calling for Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to bear personal responsibility for the rail chaos. Grayling has been criticised for previously insisting, “I don’t run the railways”, in an apparent attempt to dodge the blame.

See more

This morning Grayling rejected the suggestion that he should resign. “It’s a system problem with the way the industry works — my job is to get this sorted out,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We took at face value the assurances of the industry and we were wrong to accept that.”

The Daily Mirror reports that the Government is launching “the biggest review of the railways since privatisation”.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.