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Grayling agrees ‘hybrid approach’ for December timetable shake-up to avoid more chaos

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has agreed to proceed with a proposed ‘hybrid option’ for timetable changes this December, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has revealed.

In a written submission to the Transport Committee’s ongoing timetable inquiry, published earlier this week, the RDG said that the hybrid approach will see “some operators making changes as originally planned, while others rolled forward their May 2018 timetable.”

The approach – recommended by Network Rail and TOCs and supported by the DfT – has been adopted following the difficulties encountered with this summer’s chaotic timetable changes, which left thousands of commuters across London and the north facing massive delays and cancellations.

“The rail industry has reviewed its plans for December 2018 and is acting now to make sure that changes can be introduced smoothly, and that passengers can plan their journeys with confidence,” the document said. “The government has accepted the rail industry’s recommended approach.”

The majority of TOCs will introduce a new timetable in December, while others will continue with their May timetable, which will “still require additional work to be done.” Where this is the case, the RDG said, minor adjustments and “small locally-based changes that have limited wider impact” may be made if possible.

“The December 2018 timetable change will be of a similar scale to the smaller changes of recent years,” the RDG added. “Customers in many parts of the country will still see changes to their timetables this winter, while elsewhere a more cautious approach will be taken with some planned improvements being introduced more gradually.”

The hybrid approach was proposed after a Network Rail-led Timetable Assurance Readiness Programme Management Office, overseen by a cross-industry steering group, assessed the rail sector’s readiness for the December timetable shake-up and made direct recommendations to Grayling.

The management group will continue to monitor the risks to the successful delivery of December’s changes and is conducting a similar review of the May 2019 timetable. It will make recommendations for the changes to be made based on an evaluation of the risks of delivery, the planning capacity to accommodate changes, as well as the prioritisation of proposed changes.

“Having tackled the immediate challenges around the December 2018 and May 2019 timetable changes, the Industry Timetable Assurance PMO will now move on to assess what the future ‘business as usual’ processes for assessing industry readiness should be, and where the accountabilities should rest,” the RDG said.

Grayling and others from his department, including director general for rail Ruth Hannant, passenger services boss Peter Wilkinson, and Rail North Partnership director Gary Bogan, will all convene in front of the Transport Committee on Monday to discuss May’s timetable debacle. Later that same day, the ORR’s Professor Stephen Glaister, Ian Prosser, and Dan Brown will do the same.

Top image: Danny Lawson via PA Images


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