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10.07.15

ORR criticises ‘lack of transparency’ on communicating PIDD plans

A lack of ‘transparency’ by TOCs to communicate their commitment to an industry-wide plan on improving passenger information during times of disruption (PIDD) is undermining the programme’s success. 

In a letter from John Larkinson, director of economic regulation at the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), to the Rail Delivery Group, he stated that the industry developed an action plan agreed at a meeting of the National Task Force (NTF) in January 2015. 

However, despite the ORR asking for the plan to be published, NTF decided that each individual Train Operating Company (TOC) would communicate externally to passengers and stakeholders what their commitment was to improving PIDD. 

Larkinson said: “To date only three TOCs – London Overground, First Great Western and Southeastern – have done this. This lack of transparency makes it more difficult to comment on what has to date been a success in terms of delivery.” 

RTM reported back in December 2014 that the deadline for completing an industry-wide action plan to improve PIDD had been ‘missed’. It was expected that the first draft of the action plan would be published by November 2014. 

In the latest letter, which was also sent to TOC managing directors, Larkinson added that the industry’s PIDD Programme Progress Board (PPPB) has been monitoring the delivery of the actions. 

“It has provided a clear assessment each month and we have carried out our own sample checks to verify it,” he said. “By the end of June 2015 almost half (19) of the 40 industry actions were due to be completed. Of those, all but two have been delivered by all TOCs. 

He added that as PIDD actions due for delivery in June are generally complete the ORR believes that the relative stability of the next few months will allow time for train operators to get their plans finalised with the necessary director level sign-off. 

“It is important that a “signed-off” version of each train operator’s plan is sent to us each time that it is revised,” said Larkinson. “This will demonstrate to us that the commitments in the plan are approved at a senior level and are fully embedded within the company.” 

There are three key actions are due to be completed by October 2015. ORR expects operators to increase transparency and thereby accountability to passengers by publishing what they are doing under their local delivery plan together with an annual progress report. 

In addition, the regulator is looking for the industry to help passengers avoid disruption in the first place by promoting the services that are available to allow passengers to check for delays before they travel. These include journey alerts and smartphone apps. 

Rail delays c. Gareth Fuller PA Wire

ORR added that although some of the completed actions involve improvements to internal company processes there are also some that rail passengers should start to notice and benefit from immediately. These include: 

  • Defining good practice for website design to ensure that a prominent warning is displayed on desktop and mobile websites and smartphone apps during disruption. Implementation of this is due by March 2017 but warning banners have already been delivered by several train operators including East Coast and c2c.
  • Ensuring that timetable changes made on the day are entered into the industry’s Darwin database so that they are reflected in real time Customer Information Systems (CIS). Importantly, the completion of the “Darwin CIS” project will mean that the information that passengers see on their smartphone and websites is the same as that displayed on the station information screens. This consistency is essential, provides passengers with reassurance and should further increase the use of the mobile websites and apps which are now widespread across the industry.
  • Making sure that temporary timetables for the next day have been entered into systems correctly and are displaying in industry journey planners such as National Rail Enquiries. This should resolve one of the issues that we identified in our investigation into Network Rail’s Christmas engineering overrun where late notice changes were not reflected in journey planners or on station information screens.
  • Train controllers checking their operator websites and others that show their train information to make sure that disruptions to services are being shown correctly.
  • Increasing efforts to inform passengers that they may be entitled to compensation when their train is delayed. This includes doing more to make sure that the necessary forms and procedures are easy to find on websites and where possible on trains and at stations.
  • Providing more robust estimates for the duration of any delay and not using the phrase “until further notice”. A study of past incidents has allowed typical durations for standard incidents to be included in industry messaging systems.

(Image: c. Alastair Grant)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Lutz   11/07/2015 at 14:10

There is very basic stuff; it gives the impression that the industry is characterised by having completely missed the last twenty years in the evolution of technology. If you do not know how to put technology to use for the benefit of your business you perhaps need to seek employment in trimming garden lawns.

Pedr   11/07/2015 at 22:59

We don't have enough disruption to warrant the expense. Station announcements where we have loudspeakers, or staff running up and down the platform if not. I was once severely asked by the village ice-cream keeper 'What happened to the train last Saturday?' (one had hit an irregular farm vehicle at a crossing). The pleasures of railways....

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