Give us a stable timetable now

06 June 2018

The current timetable chaos on Thameslink, Great Northern and Northern is as saddening as it is deeply frustrating for passengers.

Take Thameslink passenger Kelly. Three weeks ago she had a reasonable and improving service, with the last National Rail Passenger Survey score showing her fellow passengers were also recognising the improvement. Now she’s having to work from home because her service has been wrecked. How on earth has the rail industry managed to replace timetables that basically worked, with ones that just can’t be delivered. We’ve been warning since November about problems in getting accurate timetables finalised. We were told that, bar some initial teething problems, it would be ok. How wrong the industry turned out to be….

What to do next?

Passengers need a stable timetable – one they can rely to get them to work, exams, shops and airports. Northern decided to declare a temporary timetable, removing 165 trains each day, to buy time to get the driver training finished. Has this started to stabilise things? Let me know about your experiences since it came in. It has also begun to feel very quiet in places. Are people taking to buses and cars instead in the North West?

Thameslink and Great Northern haven’t gone for a temporary timetable and passengers are facing uncertainty and confusion – even about the timetable GTR is attempting to run. At times it is bizarre. As well as multiple cancellations of the trains that are advertised, this morning the 0605 Peterborough to London Kings Cross Great Northern train actually ran, but with hardly any passengers because it wasn’t showing on websites and apps.

Passengers need a service they can trust

This has to change. At a meeting on Monday afternoon with Nick Brown, GTR’s Chief Operating Officer, I made it clear that passengers need a service they can trust. There needs to be a properly-advertised interim timetable that will run reliably until there are enough drivers trained to introduce the promised timetable properly.  Expecting passengers to cope with the current lottery is unacceptable.

Northern’s short-term solution has of course left some routes abandoned in the short-term, with trains replaced with buses. Those passengers have every reason to feel aggrieved, not least on the Lakes Line in Cumbria where buses replace all trains for the next two weeks.

We are calling for Northern to offer passengers Delay Repay compensation against the timetable which should have been running, as GTR has done. Passengers should get compensation if they are 30 minutes or more late getting to their destination for whatever reason, including because their train has been withdrawn or replaced by a bus.

But it’s not just about Delay Repay. The special compensation scheme announced this week must recognise the human impact – the extent of the disruption to people’s lives. Northern needs to get on with providing this compensation – details ‘in due course’ really doesn’t wash. And it is the same for some parts of the Thameslink and Great Northern networks – the impact has been so severe that passengers deserve more than just Delay Repay.

We’ll continue gathering feedback from passengers and monitoring the impact on the ground, while pushing the industry to get stable interim timetables in place and to provide decent compensation.

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