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ORR launches independent inquiry into timetable chaos

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has formally launched its independent inquiry into the widespread timetable disruption suffered on the railway since the new timetable was rolled out on last month.

Instead of delivering benefits to the rail network as intended, the new timetable, which came into action on 20 May, resulted in chaos, particularly for Northern and Govia Thameslink Rail (GTR) passengers.

On 4 June, the ORR was asked by transport secretary Chris Grayling to set up an inquiry into the failed new schedules, headed by its chair, Professor Stephen Glaister.

The inquiry will identify the factors that contributed to the failure to produce and introduce a satisfactory operational timetable, and reach conclusions about managing the risks created by major network changes.

It will also make recommendations to the industry and government prior to any future major network changes.

Focusing on what took place during the introduction of the timetable, the inquiry will concentrate on the evidence of where there were differences and underlying causes, and will examine the disruption experienced by passengers - particularly on lines served by GTR and Northern.

How Network Rail and the train operators worked together before and after the introduction of the timetable, Network Rail’s role in delivering network enhancements, the Department for Transport’s (DfT) role in planning enhancements and franchises, and the industry’s readiness in preparing for timetable changes will also be considered.

Glaister explained: “A considerable amount of time was spent planning these changes so it is disappointing that the industry could not make the new timetable work. The ORR does not set or approve the railway timetable; we will therefore look at this issue independently and dispassionately.”

He added: “While I want the Inquiry to proceed at pace it is important to be thorough and impartial. We will collect evidence from a range of organisations, including passenger representatives such as Transport Focus, and be supported by an expert panel of external advisers.”

According to Glaister, the ORR’s role as regulator of Network Rail and the train operating companies has been properly assessed by the inquiry will also be challenged by the advisory panel.

The inquiry will have three phases: evidence-gathering, analysis, and development of recommendations. An interim report will be published in September, with the final report published by the end of the year.

Top image: Gareth Fuller PA Wire


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