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Grayling scolds operators for lack of communication on cancelled services

Chris Grayling has rebuked train operators for their actions last week, when freezing conditions and heavy snow brought periods of extreme disruption.

In a letter to Rail Delivery Group (RDG) boss, Paul Plummer, the transport secretary said there had been a “high number” of incidents brought to his attention in which TOCs had failed to properly communicate delays or cancellations of services, leading to major issues for passengers

Last week’s weather saw temperatures drop to as low as -12°C with hundreds of train services cancelled and some areas of the UK hit with red alerts, recommending people not to travel.

While he credited companies for their efforts in getting trains running despite the conditions, he also said he expected communication to improve going forward.

“One area where industry needs to take further action is around customer communications during disruption,” Grayling wrote.

“There have been a number of instances which have come to my attention which do not reflect the high standard of communication passengers deserve.

“Going forward I expect to see a focus on providing passengers with better information, not least in the event of cancellations, where alternatives exist for customers to complete their journey.”

The secretary of state suggested that the RDG consult with him on the issue at the next roundtable meeting on 14 March.

In response to Grayling, a spokesperson for the RDG apologised for the poor communication and said operators would work to improve.

“We’re sorry for the disruption that customers experienced during the recent bad weather, despite the efforts of the thousands of people who worked around the clock to clear the snow and keep people moving,” they explained.

“We’re committed to improving the information we give to customers before and during their journeys, including during bad weather. We will work together with passenger groups and government to see how we can improve.”

The news follows further criticisms of TOCs for not fully compensating passengers after last week’s ‘Beast from the East’ chaos.

Conservative MP, Tim Loughton, said operators were wrong to have paid just £187m in reimbursements between 2011 and 2017 in contrast to Network Rail’s £2bn total.

The criticism prompted spokespeople to point to the rail regulators, which are responsible for requiring operators to pay appropriate compensation.

Top image: Joe Giddens PA Archive

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John G   06/03/2018 at 10:32

We seem to have this problem every time the railway faces disruption. I returned from Switzerland on March 1st to Manchester. Final destination was Sheffield. First train was run by Transpennine Express and this was cancelled at Manchester Piccadilly - as Hope Valley route blocked by snow. The actual problem was ice in Cowburn Tunnel. The staff at Piccadilly were struggling to get accurate information from Network Rail. Surely if a route is closed the information relating to its closure must be accurate and passed to all operators and stations. I did complete my travels that evening thanks to East Midlands trains (whos train brought some ice down in Cowburn Tunnel) and Northern and their staff where more helpful but for me, I got more information from Real Time Trains App including platform numbers and connection times. If they can get the information then I would expect the train operators to also have access to this and use it to inform the passengers. Well done RTT as your information allowed me and four other people to complete journeys in difficult conditions.

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