HS2

20.09.18

ORR report: ‘No one took charge’ in May timetable chaos, ‘everyone made mistakes’

A scathing report into the May timetable chaos has blasted transport secretary Chris Grayling, Network Rail, and the DfT’s handling of the widespread crisis, claiming “no one took charge” when issues started to arise.

The report, led by rail regulator ORR chair Professor Stephen Glaister, was commissioned by Grayling in June after the nation’s networks entered a crisis of cancellations, delays, and major disruption caused by new timetables introduced on 20 May.

The three-month inquiry found that Network Rail, Northern, GTR, the DfT, and the regulator themselves “all made mistakes” which contributed to the collapse of services, particularly on GTR and Northern routes.

Some of the root causes behind the chaos stemmed from Network Rail’s failure to complete the North West Electrification Programme (NWEP) in the set timeframe before the new timetables were to be introduced, as part of the £1bn Great North Rail Project which aimed to electrify the Blackpool to Manchester route.

Another key issue centred on the planning stages of the new timetables: the inquiry found that during the early stages “the industry placed engineering and planning concerns ahead of serving its passengers,” issues that were made worse by the poor information train operators provided when the disruption occurred.

Shortfalls in infrastructure electrification for Northern came to a head over five months before the timetables were due to be introduced, the inquiry noted.

“On 5 January 2018, the Extraordinary North of England Programme Board decided that implementing a further closure of the railway to deliver NWEP Phase 4 for May 2018 would be too disruptive for passengers,” the report said. “As a consequence, Northern was required to fundamentally re-cast its timetable, with 16 weeks available to complete work that would normally take 40 weeks under the schedule in Part D of the Network Code.”

‘An apparent gap in industry responsibility and accountability’

Amongst other issues highlighted by the Glaister-led inquiry was that there “is an apparent gap in industry responsibility and accountability risks, and that needs to change.” Neither GTR nor Northern were properly aware of or prepared for problems in delivering the timetable, and they did not do enough to provide accurate information to passengers when the disruption occurred.

The report also made reference to misfires in leadership during the crisis, making reference to Network Rail— referred to as the ‘System Operator’— not “taking sufficient action” to the problems that were developing in rail networks across the UK.

It explained: “Network Rail’s timetable planning department, the System Operator, was best placed to notice that a problem was developing and they did recognise this. But they did not take sufficient action to manage the risks or the consequences. The present industry arrangements do not support clarity of decision making: it was unclear who was responsible for what. Nobody took charge.”

In addition, the DfT and ORR have responsibilities “overseeing most aspects of the industry,” the inquiry said – yet “neither organisation sufficiently tested the assurances that they received from the industry about the risk of disruption, despite having information and powers that would have allowed them to do so.”

Glaister said: “The May 2018 timetable was meant to offer more services and reliability, but in reality it led to major disruption for passengers. Today’s report uncovers the issues that Network Rail, GTR, Northern, ORR and the DfT together need to address to stop this disruption happening again.

“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.”

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “Today, I’d like to add my sincerest apologies to passengers for letting them down with May’s timetable troubles. A whole system approach to timetable planning must be the way ahead and we have already started on that path with the new winter timetable due in December that will see some modest improvements.

"This approach will continue as we look to ensure that passengers see the benefit of record investment and new services, welcoming them with confidence rather than concern.”

In a statement released this morning, Northern Rail said: "The ORR Report has confirmed that the root cause of the timetable disruption was delays to engineering projects to improve the railway. Normally, train operators are given 40 weeks to plan the twice-yearly introduction of a new timetable. However, due to delayed engineering projects in north west England, Northern had to entirely re-write its May 2018 timetable in just 16 weeks.

"Northern will now consider in detail the findings in the ORR Report. We want to learn the lessons of the May timetable disruption and will be working closely with other organisations across the rail industry to ensure new timetabling is implemented as effectively as possible for customers in the future."

Paul Plummer, CEO of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The structural issues highlighted in this report underline the need for the wide-ranging, root and branch rail review we have been calling for to deliver meaningful reform that puts customers at the heart of the railway.

“Working together we are determined to learn the lessons to avoid a repeat of May’s disruption which stemmed from our ambition to deliver the step-change in rail services people want to see. The rail industry stands ready to build on the recommendations and deliver a better railway for passengers and the country.”

Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North, said: “The Report’s summary highlights the Rail Delivery Group’s statement that ‘the timetable is our promise to passengers’. This summer, in the north of England, and elsewhere, that promise was broken. That is unacceptable. It was passengers who suffered and that must not be allowed to happen again.

"The findings of this report when it is concluded, informed by the findings of our own review now underway through the Rail North Partnership, will help further ensure that passengers’ voices are heard.”

 

Enjoying RTM? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

LNER plans for better mobile connections

04/06/2020LNER plans for better mobile connections

London North Eastern Railway (LNER) has announced plans in collaboration with mobile phone operator O2 to boost network coverage along a 45-mile ... more >
Transport for the North joint submission to the Integrated Rail Plan

03/06/2020Transport for the North joint submission to the Integrated Rail Plan

In a collaborative submission to the Integrated Rail Plan, Transport for the North’s Members have called for a sustained investment in the ... more >
Overnight work to overhead power lines at Euston

03/06/2020Overnight work to overhead power lines at Euston

Network Rail are advising passengers that there will be no services in or out of London Euston after 9pm this Thursday (June 4th) while work to o... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

14/11/2019Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

Rail Technology Magazine’s Matt Roberts explains the significant role data can play within the future development of the rail industry. Standing as a cornerstone of the UK transport network, the rail industry is forever striving to innovate and maximise efficiency in all aspects of its work. Data is just one such way of achievi... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >

rail industry focus

View all News

interviews

Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >