A lack of responsibility and accountability contributed to the May timetable disruption on Britain’s railways, according to the Interim Inquiry report from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
According to the three-month Interim Inquiry report, passengers were let down by mistakes made by Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Northern, the Department for Transport (DfT), and the ORR.
All of these caused the collapse of services on the GTR and Northern routes.
The timetable, which was implemented on 20 May, was expected to result in a 13% increase in daily capacity. However, it was besieged by problems from the start, and a number of daily services were cancelled, affecting businesses and commuter journeys.
It was thought that the Great North Rail Project, which encompasses the North West Electrification Programme (NWEP) and the Thameslink programme, should have resulted in more services to new destination, greater rolling stock; this would ultimately lead to improved reliability and more seats for passengers.
However, the Interim Inquiry report revealed the completion of NWEP was delayed, exacerbated by Network Rail’s belief that the time could be made up.
The DfT meanwhile decided to phase the introduction of Thameslink. This stretched Network Rail’s resources in its timetabling department.
Where the ORR say the whole industry has responsibility is that nobody realised that these combined factors posed a serious threat to the success of the revised timetable.
Passenger needs were put behind engineering and planning concerns during the planning stages, and information conveyed once the disruptions began was not up to standard.
As a result, the ORR make it clear that the ‘apparent’ gap in industry responsibility and accountability in managing risks simply must change.
Professor Stephen Glaister, Chairman of the ORR and Inquiry, said: “Central to the issues were that 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. This meant that staff worked in very difficult circumstances to do as good a job as possible and I thank them for their efforts.”
The final report will be published before the end of the year, and will include analysis of action that the DfT, ORR and industry needs to take to ensure there is no repeat of the chaos.