Fares, rail policy and DfT news

04.12.18

Grayling ‘should resign’ over ‘appalling’ timetable chaos as MPs call for fare freeze

MPs have demanded a freeze in rail fares and called for the transport secretary to resign over the “chaotic roll-out” of the new railway timetables introduced in May, which hit nearly half of all passenger services up and down the country – particularly in London and the north.

A scathing new report from the Transport Select Committee into the May timetable chaos has looked into “potentially dangerous disruption,” arguing that around a fifth of rail passengers “suffered appalling services and have been very badly let down by the whole system.”

Chris Grayling has been heavily criticised in the report, with the committee claiming that it was unreasonable for him to absolve himself of responsibility of the crisis and that he should have taken a “more proactive approach” instead.

The cross-party committee of MPs, chaired by Lilian Greenwood, said “the statistics cannot do justice to the severe effects on people’s lives,” adding: “There was extraordinary complacency about protecting the interests of passengers, who were very badly let down.”

With further timetable changes due this weekend, the MPs said that independent oversight of the process needed to be established to ensure that more than 190 additional Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) services don’t see a repeat of May’s chaos.

Almost half of all passenger services were affected by the changes made in May this year, where more than 42,000 individual tweaks to services affected 46% of UK rail users. The chaos saw GTR fail to run 12% of its planned services in the weeks following May, Arriva Rail North failed to run one in nine of its trains, and there was also a knock-on impact on TransPennine Express routes.

According to MPs, train operators, Network Rail and the DfT all share the responsibility for the shambolic roll-out of the new timetable, echoing the ORR’s findings that “no-one took charge.”

Greenwood noted: “It is extraordinary, and totally unacceptable, that no one took charge of the situation and acted to avert the May timetabling crisis.”

The committee said the main cause of the crisis was the “astonishing complexity” of a fragmented railway, described as a “collective system-wide failure across Network Rail, the privately-owned train operating companies, the DfT and the ORR.”

Just a few days after a 3.1% rise in rail fares was announced, the MPs on the committee recommended existing season ticket holders on the worst-hit routes should be given a relative fare freeze equivalent to the new fare hike.

Image credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

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