Rail timetable change 2018
A new timetable was introduced on 20 May, affecting passengers right across the rail network with almost half of Britain’s rail services rescheduled. Unprecedented delays, confusion and cancellations made life miserable over the spring and summer for some Northern, Thameslink and Great Northern passengers.
We made plain from the outset that passengers wanted three things:
- stable timetables and reliable services
- compensation for poor service, measured against the original timetable promised, not the slimmed down one offered
- the whole rail industry to pull together to help passengers through this crisis, lifting ticket restrictions so passengers could use whichever train company they needed to.
We pushed to make these things happen on behalf of passengers and continue to help more passengers with their complaints to train companies.
Special compensation above and beyond the usual has been welcome – for both season ticket holders and part time travellers, fulfilling some of demands we made in June on behalf of passengers. We continue to encourage all eligible passengers to claim and to help people resolve complaints with a train company (see our guidance).
Meanwhile, members of the Transport Focus team will continue to monitor the state of the railway closely because the first priority for passengers must be to ensure services run reliably and information is accurate so people can plan to travel with some certainty.
We remain keen to hear from passengers – tweet us @transportfocus as we can use information about your experiences to feed back to individual operators.
Later this year, the next round of our National Rail Passenger Survey will help gauge passenger reaction once the changes have settled down.
Northern railway passengers are set to see the introduction from January 2019 of a 15-minute delay trigger for compensation. Following months of cancellations and delays this is a welcome step in helping rebuild passengers’ trust .
Rail Minister Jo Johnson announced that plans have been made by the operator to extend the current delay repay compensation scheme to include delays of 15 minutes and longer. Passengers can currently claim compensation if their train is at least 30 minutes late.
The changes would mean that passengers delayed by between 15 and 29 minutes will be able to claim back compensation worth 25 per cent of the single fare.
Transport Focus has continually pushed for this enhanced compensation deal that will benefit all passengers, ensuring they get the compensation they deserve. Passengers on TransPennine Express will now want to know when they can expect the same deal.
Travelling over the August Bank Holiday was tough for some passengers with engineering work underway across the network and strike action affecting Northern services. Disruption continues with Euston closed for a third weekend, Liverpool Lime Street closed on Sunday and lines through Bolton closed all week for electrification work. It’s also now more than three months on since the 20 May timetable change. What should passengers look out for as the trains start to get much busier again with the return to work and school?
Earlier this week we welcomed the news that Thameslink and Great Northern passengers who don’t use season tickets will also be able to claim additional compensation. We pushed very hard for this extension of compensation; part-time workers and other regular passengers were also hit hard by the disruption and deserve to be compensated too. We know work continues to develop a similar package of compensation for regular Northern and TransPennine Express passengers who do not buy season tickets. It’s important this is finalised without further delay and that it’s made quick and easy for passengers to claim.
Meanwhile we’ve been monitoring how the compensation offered to Northern and TransPennine Express season ticket holders has been communicated. We asked passengers on our Transport User Panel about their awareness of this additional compensation and their experience of making a claim. Overall the results are reassuring: they indicate most passengers are aware to some extent of what is on offer and many have already claimed, but the research also highlights the train companies need to continue communicating about the scheme and to actively prompt the remaining eligible passengers to claim. We intend to ask Great Northern and Thameslink passengers about their awareness and experience of claiming similar compensation soon.
There are still some Northern services that should have been running since May but have not yet been reinstated. Passengers on these routes deserve to know when these trains will be put back. However, for many Northern passengers a pressing concern is the reality of – in effect – a six day a week railway. The strike last weekend was the first of six consecutive Saturdays of industrial action. With Northern running less than 30% of the usual number of services on strike days this is really painful for passengers who rely on the train.
It feels like trust in the railway in some areas is close to rock-bottom. We know from our research Passengers’ relationship with the rail industry that delivering a punctual and reliable service is the foundation that underpins trust in train companies. Punctuality and levels of cancellations on some parts of the network remain poor and well below levels seen before the timetable change. Compensation for affected passengers is an important first step, but to allow passengers to move on from the crisis and rebuild trust the industry must maintain a focus on recovering day to day performance.
We’re into the twelfth week since the 20 May timetable didn’t go to plan on Govia Thameslink, Northern and TransPennine Express. How is it now for passengers? While it’s not yet perfect, it’s considerably better than it was. Re-introduction last week of three-quarters of the 168 missing Northern trains seems to have gone reasonably well. The timetable introduced on Thameslink and Great Northern on 15 July also continues to operate reliably, except where infrastructure faults have occurred.
Along with some other train companies, Northern passengers continue to suffer cancellations at weekends (for instance Northern advertised 80 cancellations on 5 August) because train companies rely on voluntary overtime to run the Sunday service. At Thameslink and Great Northern, getting the engineering work timetable changes in the public domain early enough for passengers to plan their journeys seems to remain a challenge.
So what is Transport Focus doing now, given that the immediate crisis has abated?
- Day to day performance. We continue to monitor and challenge train companies where punctuality or the level of cancellations isn’t good enough. Remember if you are delayed by 15 minutes or more on Govia Thameslink or by 30 minutes for more on Northern or TransPennine Express you can claim delay repay.
- Compensation. We’ve successfully pressed Northern or TransPennine Express to recognise that they need to go further than their normal Passenger’s Charter compensation regime. Arrangements for season ticket holders are agreed – details for Govia Thameslink are here, for Northern here and for TransPennine Express here. We’ve been asked to help Northern and TransPennine Express work out details for non-season ticket holders after Transport for the North endorsed compensation for non-season ticket-holders. We’re still pressing for similar for non-season ticket-holders on Thameslink and Great Northern.
- Accurate timetables for when there are engineering works. We have asked all train companies, but especially Govia Thameslink, Northern and TransPennine Express, to publish timetables as early as possible for days when there are engineering works. We’re also looking for clear commitments from train operators to get back to a position where such notices are published 12 weeks ahead.
- Making sure the lessons are learned. We’ve submitted evidence to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) Glaister Inquiry. Following ORR’s update on the ‘T-12’ Investigation and the Inquiry last week, we’ve written to the ORR setting out the issues we’d like ORR to make sure are tackled in the recommendations they make. We’re also working on a submission to the Transport Select Committee Inquiry into rail timetable changes.
We’ve been monitoring rail services in the North again, both online and out on the network in Liverpool and Manchester. Yesterday was an important test for the rail industry. Northern has reinstated 75 per cent of the services removed with the introduction of the emergency timetable in June and Liverpool Lime Street has reopened after 8 weeks of engineering work. So how have Northern and TransPennine Express passengers fared?
Well, it’s good to see Liverpool Lime Street reopened on time following the long closure to upgrade the platforms and signalling. Passengers may not immediately notice a huge difference on the station concourse, but the infrastructure improvements will allow faster and more frequent services in future. Yesteray morning staff at the station were handing out cupcakes to passengers to thank them for their patience during the work.
Some passengers may need to draw on whatever reserves of patience they have left, for some it’s been a poor start to the week with faults with track and signalling near Northallerton and Sheffield causing cancellations and delays. While delay for any reason can spoil passengers’ plans, perhaps most concerning are continuing cancellations to services due to a ‘shortage of train drivers’. This caused significant disruption on Sunday with little or no notice given to passengers who will find it extraordinary the railway relies on voluntary overtime to run scheduled services. It’s very concerning that cancellations due to lack of staff continued on some routes including Blackpool, Liverpool and Barrow-in-Furness yesterday. Passengers may well wonder why services have been reinstated if these cancellations continue?
Northern’s performance is back in the headlines, but TransPennine Express passengers also face ongoing disruption. Parts of the timetable simply don’t seem to work in practice, with insufficient time to recover from small delays. For example yesterday a colleague caught the 10.35 TransPennine Express train from Manchester Victoria to Manchester Airport. Initially showing as seven minutes delayed it eventually departed Victoria 12 minutes late. After painfully slow process across Manchester the train was cancelled at Piccadilly when 19 minutes late. The guard handled it well, giving passengers information about the next train to the airport on the same platform. However, it’s more than two months since the May timetable change and passengers will be frustrated these problems don’t yet seem any closer to being fixed.
Last year we flagged up some issues the rail industry seemed to have with publishing accurate timetables 12 weeks in advance. This led to the industry introducing a temporary six-week deadline. Then of course the 20 May timetable change brought chaos to passengers in the north, London and south east.
Today the regulator issued an action plan for Network Rail to resolve serious issues with its timetable planning. The actions include a requirement that we called for, to report publicly on late-notice timetable changes and the reasons for them.
We welcomed the action plan publicly, saying:
“Passengers want timetables finalised in good time – 12 weeks is the standard – so they can plan their trips with confidence and get the best-value Advance tickets. They then want the trains to run reliably. That simply hasn’t been happening on parts of the railway. Our research shows just how much of an impact both of these have had on passengers.
“Ahead of conclusions from the wider Glaister Inquiry into the recent timetable crisis, passengers will welcome focus on successful delivery of the December 2018 timetable and on getting back as soon as possible to publishing accurate information 12 weeks in advance.”
Meanwhile the regulator was asked to hold an inquiry into the specific chaos caused by the flawed May timetable change. We have sent a response on behalf of passengers, outlining the enormous impact it has had on people’s lives. Next week we will also feed back to the regulator on areas we think need to be tackled more immediately.
Next week Northern reinstates many of the services it cancelled including on the Lakes Line. Liverpool Lime Street reopens following upgrade work. Our staff will be out and about monitoring how this goes for passengers.
It’s week two of the interim timetable on Thameslink and Great Northern and it does look as if it’s brought the stability passengers have been desperate for. Far fewer cancellations and delays, except where there’s been an infrastructure problem. And Northern is about to start reintroducing some of the 165 trains it initially had to take out of the timetable. While far from perfect, perhaps we have moved out of the crisis phase of this debacle? Keep those fingers crossed.
Although welcoming the announcements about compensation for season ticket holders, Transport Focus is still pressing for something to be done for regular passengers who buy tickets on the day – such as part-time workers. Since the outset of the timetable crisis on 20 May these passengers have also not had the service they’ve paid for and deserve something back. And we think compensating this group of passengers is an important part of the industry starting to rebuild trust with its customers. The train companies concerned need to grasp this nettle quickly.
Last week we put in our two submissions to the Office of Rail and Road inquiry into what went wrong with the May timetable, sometimes known as the Glaister Inquiry. You can read what we said here.
Back in December, Transport Focus highlighted problems the rail industry was having publishing accurate timetables 12 weeks in advance, which take into account engineering work taking place. For some train companies that problem hasn’t gone away. This week we’ll be pressing Govia Thameslink Railway and the Network Rail System Operator for a clear plan to get engineering-related timetable changes into ticket sales and other information systems as quickly as possible. We are particularly concerned about late timetable changes going into information systems on Friday nights when they affect travel the following day. This is clearly unacceptable. Passengers rely on the railway at the weekend, too!
Great Northern and Thameslink interim timetable
This week has seen much-needed improvement on Thameslink, and to a lesser extent Great Northern, since the introduction of the interim timetable on Sunday 15 July. Transport Focus has been monitoring on the ground and online to see if the stability promised by GTR was being delivered. Thameslink services are much more reliable with far fewer on-the-day cancellations. Industry information reflects an improved picture.
Great Northern passengers experienced some problems earlier in the week that mostly have now been resolved.
We were keen to hear directly from passengers about their rail journeys this week so sent out a brief survey asking if they have seen an improvement. Many of them are saying yes, there have been less cancellations and delays this week.
Tulse Hill to Farringdon
“Better as trains more reliable – fewer cancellations (aside from the day when morning trains cancelled because of a trespasser).”
Flitwick to Farringdon
“Mixture. Timetable is now more closely aligned to reality, however that seems to mostly be because train services that were being cancelled daily are simply not on the timetable.”
St Pancras to Mill Hill Broadway
“The train ran as planned. Fewer trains to choose from to make the trip but on both occasions (out and back) the trains were on time.”
Harpenden to St Pancras
“Monday was pretty bad. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday am are better. I’ve submitted just one delay repay so far this week when it’s been 4-7 in previous weeks.”
Biggleswade to Hitchen
“I have seen a definite improvement in the reliability of the service. Large majority of trains I have got this week have been on time and not crowded.”
Not all have been reporting that it has improved, particularly on Great Northern
Letchworth Garden City to Kings Cross
“Too few trains and still not reliable.”
“The train ran, but was delayed.”
So an improved picture that passengers are noticing. This must continue to win back confidence and trust that their day-to-day journeys will serve them as expected. We’ll keep watching!
Northern and TransPennine Express
Northern has been operating a reduced timetable since 4 June. Withdrawing more than 165 services did stabilise the timetable in the aftermath of the May timetable change, but train punctuality and reliability has remained unacceptable. While TransPennine Express did not introduce an emergency timetable of its own, its passengers have been affected at least as badly. Especially those passengers at the extremities of their network as far too many services have been ‘part-cancelled’ and not been reaching their intended destinations.
Northern’s emergency timetable is due to finish on 29 July, just over a week from now. Until Northern’s announcement late today some passengers were in the dark about what trains would run on their line making it hard for some to their lives. While passengers will welcome news about the reinstatement of the missing services they will judge the changes by their impact on punctuality and reliability.
In the meantime, we are still urging passengers to claim Delay Repay and the additional compensation announced for season ticket holders. We’re also continuing to press for the introduction of a 15-minute delay trigger for compensation and recognition of the impact of the disruption on passengers who don’t use season tickets – such as part-time workers.
GTR interim timetable
Yesterday, 15 July, saw the start of GTR’s interim timetable intended to bring stability to the Thameslink and Great Northern service after the 20 May timetable couldn’t be operated properly. Transport Focus has been monitoring services and by and large the picture seems to be ok. Let us know if that is your experience.
During morning peak there were fewer cancellations and relatively minor delays – this continued into the off peak.
Great Northern services into Kings Cross had some problems with cancellations and delays early in the morning. Services settled down as the morning progressed.
It’s too early to judge properly, but the early signs are that while not perfect the interim timetable is delivering stability passengers need. We’ll carrying on monitoring how things are going.
Passengers in the North West were faced with severe disruption yesterday. More than 170 trains were removed from the timetable the day before. Passengers were left at stations wondering why trains had simply disappeared from journey planners and station information screens. On some routes, for example Crewe to Manchester, there was almost no service. We welcomed Northern’s efforts to alert passengers via the media on Saturday, but our monitoring on Sunday showed that information was poor. Key issues included:
- trains simply disappeared from journey planners without any obvious explanation or advice about alternatives.
- there was no prominent message on Northern’s website to warn passengers and no proactive tweets about the cancellations
- northern’s website showing a “good service” on some lines that had essentially no trains.
Northern said the cause was “train crew having made themselves unavailable to work”. While passengers will find it extraordinary that Sunday services are so reliant on voluntary overtime, they’ll perhaps be less surprised that Northern staff decided to watch the football that particular Sunday. What they’ll find unforgivable, is Northern’s failure to provide crystal clear information.
Fingers crossed for Thameslink stability…
Monday sees the interim timetable go in on Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) Thameslink and Great Northern routes. GTR tell us it will delivers the stability passengers have been crying out for since 20 May – fingers crossed. It still won’t be all the trains that ought to be running, but there should be far fewer cancellations. Transport Focus will be on the ground next week seeing how things are working, as well as checking information online and on apps is correct for passengers. You can see next week’s Thameslink timetables here.
Compensation for season ticket holders
At last, more detail this week on compensation for season ticket holders. You can see info for Northern here, for Transpennine Express here and for GTR passengers here. GTR will get in touch with passengers direct, but Northern don’t want to do that – we’re asking them to think again.
Under what’s been announced it’s only season ticket holders who get anything beyond what Delay Repay already gives. We’re still pushing for passengers who travel frequently (but who buy individual tickets) to get compensation – they were affected, too. And on Northern, we still think a 15 minute trigger not 30 minutes is reasonable for Delay Repay – like on Thameslink!
It’s clear that Northern and TransPennine Express’s punctuality and reliability under the temporary timetable is not getting any better. It now seems doubtful that Northern will be able to reinstate all the 165 missing trains from 1 August, so passengers will want to know what will be done to improve punctuality and drive down cancellations.
Better information and customer service
Both train operators need to focus on getting information and customer service better, too. It’s a clear theme in the experiences passengers are sharing with us:
“First train cancelled as no driver, second train delayed due to congestion. Air con not working. Train full and standing. Conductor never left his cab to face passengers.… On trains staff and station staff at Hull are invisible, the customer service desk at Hull closes all the time to avoid angry passengers. Could have given any sort of communication and had staff to help rather than hiding away. Should have provided alternative transport.” Hull to Leeds passenger
“The train was originally delayed. Went to the information desk and no one was there… went to the ticket office and asked for them to get someone to come and speak to us… was informed that I would have to wait another hour for the next train… No information available or customer service staff to deal with customer enquiries.” Manchester Victoria to Swinton Passenger
What else are we up to?
We’ve sent in our submission to the Glaister Inquiry into what went wrong with the May timetable change. We’ll publish that as soon as we can. And we’re working on our evidence to the Transport Select Committee and Rail North’s Blake Johnson review.
We’ve just entered the eighth week since the 20 May timetable change went so badly wrong on Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). In the north west the situation has been stable in recent weeks, if far from brilliant in terms of punctuality, but what happens next?
For Thameslink and Great Northern passengers, things have been anything but stable. Everything is riding on the interim timetable that starts on Sunday 15 July – one week to go! It’s difficult to overstate how important that 15 July timetable is in bringing stability, getting away from a large number of cancellations every day and letting passengers start to rely on trains again. You can download next week’s Thameslink timetables here.
What is Transport Focus doing?
In the north of England we’re continuing to press for generous compensation for passengers affected by the timetable crisis. We’ve welcomed what’s been announced, but as ever the devil’s in the detail. If it’s right that compensation starts from 15 minutes delay on Thameslink and other train companies, why not for Northern and TransPennine Express passengers? We’re also pressing Northern to be clear with passengers what’s happening from 1 August onwards (oddly, a Wednesday) – it’s only three and a half weeks away.
And we continue to monitor how things are running, including on the Windermere line where after a near-perfect Saturday there were three out of eight trains were cancelled yesterday.
On Thameslink and Great Northern, we’re pressing GTR to publicise the new schedules widely, to get the new schedules onto apps and websites and – above all – make sure the changes deliver that all important stability. We’ll be closely monitoring how it’s goes next week. We’re also pressing on compensation for Thameslink and Great Northern passengers – the detail missing from last week’s announcement must come soon. And we’ve asked the Office of Rail and Road to investigate reports of dangerous levels of crowding on some Thameslink platforms as a result of signalling problems on 21 June.
We’re also putting together our inputs to the Glaister Inquiry into the whole 20 May crisis. And we’ll be doing the same for the Blake Johnson review by Rail North into what happened in the north of England.
Tuesday 3 July
Yesterday Northern trains returned to the Lakes Line, with a shuttle service operating between Oxenholme and Windermere supplemented with rail replacement buses.
Last month we were on the ground speaking with passengers and monitoring the passenger experience, on both the buses and the interim West Coast Railways trains. You can read our report here.
Getting Northern trains back in the lake district is great news, but passengers here and in other areas affected by Northern’s emergency timetable will now want to know when the full May timetable will be introduced.
We are continuing to ask passengers for feedback on their journeys since the timetable change. It’s clear that some Northern and TransPennine Express passengers are still experiencing unacceptable disruption.
“The train was cancelled. Had to get a tremendously overcrowded TransPennine Express to Dewsbury and then complete the journey by bus… It seems like the 1620 Leeds – Southport gets cancelled at least once a week at the moment.” Leeds to Mirfield passenger
“The train was running approx 20 minutes late at departure from York. This is not unusual since the timetable change. We passed through Leeds at which point we got stuck behind another train on Plarform 16. This delayed our train further and we finally arrived 40 mins late in Huddersfield. This is symptomatic of Trans Pennine Express service performance following timetable changes… we didn’t get any explanation as to why it was late.” York to Huddersfield passenger
We have written to the Managing Directors of both Northern and TransPennine Express. We have sought assurances on behalf of passengers about when punctuality and reliability will improve and also reiterated our view on compensation for affected passengers. You can find our letters here.
We have since welcomed the announcement by Transport for the North that compensation for season ticket holders on affected routes has been agreed. Passengers will look forward to hearing how they can apply.
Elsewhere, we’re working on our input to the Office of Rail and Road Inquiry into the whole timetable crisis. We’re also meeting Govia Thameslink Railway later this week to hear about preparations to introduce a new, stable timetable on Thameslink from 15 July.
Friday 29 June
We have been collecting passenger experiences for more than a month now. How is this helping?
We have used your first- hand stories as evidence to demonstrate the need for stable, more reliable timetables, better information and compensation.
Wins have included the compensation announcement for passengers in the north of England and working with Thameslink to improve the clarity of the information on its homepage, which sets out the overall situation and what passengers’ travel alternatives are. We’ve also made recommendations for the rail2020 websites and the FAQs.
We will continue doing this and will also make sure that lessons are learned so that we, hopefully, never see such chaos on the railways again.
Here’s a couple of examples of the ongoing experiences of passengers trying to make journeys on a regular basis, and how they have felt over time.
We’ve been hearing about the real impacts that this has had on people’s lives. Here’s just a few examples.
“My experience since the timetable change on 20th May 2018 has been dreadful, even worse than usual. I work at Great Ormond Street Hospital in an exhausting, demanding job , which is why I am unable to travel to and from work by car. On Thursday 14th June the previous trains from St Pancras to Flitwick had all been cancelled. Three trains after the 17:12 were also cancelled. When I got on the train it was very crowded. However, more and more people squeezed on because so many trains afterwards were cancelled. A woman next to me screamed as the door shut and I was squashed against the handrail unable to move. At the first stop, St. Albans, we fell out of the train when the doors opened. My back and shoulder have been sore since this happened. I now have to travel south to Blackfriars to be able to get on a train safely. I have reluctantly resigned from a job that I love, making medicines for sick children. I have over 10 years NHS experience and I am leaving a department that is now severely understaffed. This diabolical service is not just affecting me and my colleagues, it impacts on innocent seriously ill children. The people responsible for this shambles need to be punished.”
“On this day I had to get to London Bridge in order to travel north to Stoke Newington and train over 50 people …. obviously I was late which is just not acceptable for police officers … I have been affected by southern strikes 40 days and now Thameslink inability to run any sort of reliable timetable.”
“In total the journey took me about 90 minutes when it should have been around 60. The return journey was no better. My total commute today took 3 hours rather than 2. This is currently typical (i.e. about 5 hours extra per working week spent commuting).”
And passengers have told us what they would like the rail companies to do to help them. Again, much of it seems like common sense:
“There is no certainty whatsoever around timetables, journey planner or live departure boards. We are told to check these but there is no point as they aren’t accurate and change all the time. Trains disappear and reappear. We need to know and understand which services will stop for us if other services are cancelled. They should also provide more reassurance about buses or to refund taxis. But they won’t make any commitment. We are supposed to just accept the uncertainty.”
“The timetable is horrible and random. They should announce updates the night before and have proper contingency plans. this is franchise so needs to pull their socks up. Staff at the gate are so rude, they are told to take our tickets away so we don’t claim compensation, last week the staff harassed me to retain my ticket, when I said I needed it to claim he showed a very rude behaviour. Staff treat us as enemies.”
“Make sure that the published timetable is the one the operator is going to use. And make sure it’s staff are fully briefed. Simple lack of attention to detail! The passenger is left to sort out the mess.”
We would love to hear about your journey – what happened and what the rail company could have done to help you. Click here to tell us as regularly as you would like.
We will also send out specific surveys to passengers on our Transport User Panel – at various points over the coming weeks and months, to get detailed feedback through various developments until things are back to normal.
Monday 25 June
Northern’s temporary timetable has been in place for more than three weeks now. Passengers on some lines will welcome the improvement in punctuality and reliability this has provided. However, the impact on some passengers where services have been removed or replaced by buses has been significant.
The Lakes Line between Oxenholme and Windermere has been one of the most impacted, with no Northern trains for more than three weeks. However last week trains made an unexpected return to the line as West Coast Railways –normally a charter operator – stepped in and provided a shuttle service running alongside Northern’s rail replacement buses.
It’s a remarkable story as this ‘DIY’ train service was put together at short notice, in part thanks to the Lakes Line Rail User Group. We’ve been on the line again in recent days speaking to passengers and seeing what they think of both the bus and this unusual train service. Have these trains been enticing passengers and holidaymakers back to the Lake District? Longer term, passengers will now want to know when a full service will resume on this and Northern’s other affected routes.
Meawhile in the south, both performance and information continue to disappoint passengers.
Regular commuter Dan says:
“If I didn’t have the option of going to Victoria this morning I’d be a bit stuck. When I arrived at Horsham station the 34 Thameslink service was advertised as on time at 07.34. Except there was no sign of it arriving from the Horsham depot two minutes away. It’s usually waiting in the platform – IF it’s running. More often than not it isn’t.
“The information screen then switched to saying expected at 35. Then 36. When I asked platform staff whether I should wait for the 34 or catch the 40 service to Victoria they asked where I was going. I said City Thameslink and they said “they don’t usually tell us about those trains (the new Thameslink services from Horsham) – try to catch the 40 and change at Three Bridges for a Thameslink”. There was then an announcement to say “apologies to passengers on Platform 2, I know some apps are showing the 07.40 service as cancelled, but it’s not. It’s actually at Christ’s Hospital and will be here shortly”.
“I got the 40 to Victoria as I have no faith or trust that GTR will get me to where I actually want to go.”
Wednesday 20 June
Passengers on Thameslink and Great Northern continue to experience too many short notice cancellations and delays.
Yesterday we met with Govia Thameslink Railway’s chief operating officer Nick Brown to discuss two key areas:
• the urgency of giving passengers a timetable they can rely on
• appropriate compensation.
Calling for an interim timetable
For a few weeks we have been calling for an interim published timetable that GTR are confident they can run day-in-day out on Thameslink and Great Northern.
They confirmed at the meeting that a temporary timetable will be introduced in July 2018, the detail of this is still being worked on. In the interim GTR have agreed to publish a Monday to Friday interim timetable on its website and on online systems, although this may still be subject to some cancellations.
GTR will also further improve communication of its remedial plan so that passengers can have more confidence about which trains are expected to run and where bus replacement is being offered. GTR will continue to recommend that passengers check before they travel.
We welcome GTR’s commitment to base Delay Repay entitlement on the full, intended 20 May timetable. But the enhanced compensation being offered is not sufficient redress for what passengers are going through. We stressed to GTR that the current offer must be improved and we continue to call for:
• a lump-sum payable to season ticket holders to reflect the hardship experienced
• a package to recognise the impact on regular travellers who do not buy season tickets.
Passengers on Thameslink and Great Northern completing our daily survey back up the need for both of these issues to be sorted out:
“It’s the uncertainty. Every morning and every evening I wonder if the train will run, will I get a seat, how crowded will it be? All trains seem to stop everywhere which is adding a lot to the travel time.”
“Train was cancelled again along with it being cancelled on my way home last night and already my 17.39 has been cancelled tonight already”
“So many short notice cancellations. I checked the app in the morning and my usual train 7.52 is running. Arrive at the station an hour later and the service is cancelled with no explanation. Forced onto a slower 8.01 which takes 15 minutes longer to reach Blackfriars”
“0751 cancelled, 0759 additional train rammed. Boarded 0810 driver announced ‘this is a non-existent train to King’s Cross’. No idea where it came from but a slow one into King’s Cross!”
“Took 1044 from Cambridge to Kings Cross; originating from Kings Lynn, and only 4 coaches. People standing, and then additional stops made. Had seat, but uncomfortable journey.”
“Went to catch 17:44 from Cambridge. Running late second evening in a row, Left Cambridge approx. 18:03, arrived Waterbeach 18:17. Since introduction of new timetables, trains more unreliable, cancelled and some trains removed completely from timetable.”
Tuesday 19 June
Today the rail industry apologised at our public Board meeting for the frustration and misery inflicted on passengers for the last month. They say there is a plan to restore reliability and the missing 165 Northern services. Speakers included David Brown (Northern managing director), Leo Goodwin (TransPennine Express managing director) and Patrick Cawley (director of route sponsorship, Network Rail).
We held the rail companies accountable in public and gave passengers the chance to ask questions. We shared the stories passengers have been telling us about the impact of the disruption on their lives. We heard from the speakers why the timetable change went so badly, then asked them how they were going to put it right, compensate passengers and rebuild trust.
The companies have promised services will improve and that detail on special compensation will be announced soon. In the meantime, we encourage passengers to keep claiming the compensation you are entitled to and keep speaking up when things go wrong.
Meanwhile, in London last night the Transport Select Committee heard from a number of industry representatives about the timetable meltdown. We attended and have written to the committee to reiterate what passengers are telling us.
Last night we asked passengers if they claim compensation, and what they think of it.
- “The problem is it will not store my season ticket or photocard details. So every time I have to fill them out again. This is a stupid waste of time. I should be able to store them and then change them when they change.” (Haywards Heath to Clapham Junction)
- “No, I have not claimed compensation. In the past I have found the process to be far too complicated and for very little return.” (Enfield Chase to Moorgate)
- “No. I have weekly tickets and I don’t think the Northern rail company will compensate me enough for the couple of months of really horrendous services.”(Preston to Bolton)
- “When I woke up and looked at the train schedule, I saw that three trains had already been cancelled and one wasn’t even showing as part of the timetable. Yet again, I chose to drive so as to have some certainty to my morning and evening commutes. Because I have, in most cases, chosen not to travel by train; company makes it impossible to claim compensation in this situation.” (Elstree and Borehamwood to West Hampstead Thameslink
- “Two trains cancelled in a row. The next one turned up 13 minutes late: arriving at Blackfriars 14 minutes late, just inside the delay repay window! I am going to claim for the worst disrupted days. But the process when paying by contactless credit card is a bit of a pain. So for a couple of pounds it’s almost not worth the hassle.” (Elstree and Borehamwood to London Blackfriars)
- “I still never know if my train will turn up or run on time and always anxious about getting a seat. I have claimed when my journeys have been disrupted but its not always made clear you can claim. Process is difficult and I often wait months for my compensation. The compensation is hardly worth claiming. I tend to get back about £2 on a journey which costs me £9 and doesn’t compensate for the stress and inconvenience. I don’t think 30 mins is fair either, i dont get compensation if my train is stuck waiting for a platform for 15 mins which can in turn make me miss a connection and later for work!” (Chorley to Manchester Victoria)
- “Claimed each and every time. Got a nice pile of vouchers as a result but would prefer the trains to run to time.” (London Victoria to Haywards Heath)
Thursday 14 June
Turn up and might go
How do you set your alarm for a train that might or might not run? That’s what many passengers are asking, as information continues to be patchy. It is turning into a real ‘turn up and might go’ situation.
Passenger comments and colleague experiences indicate that reliable information is lacking.
Yesterday afternoon a colleague checked to see whether one of the new Horsham to Peterborough trains would be running this morning (14 June). The National Rail Enquiries website confirmed that the 7.34 was planned to run – but when he checked again at about 7am, it was cancelled.
Thinking he’d then catch the 7.40, he made his way to the station. Here the 7.34 was still showing as cancelled, but he could see it at the platform so he checked with staff on the information desk and was told it was definitely cancelled.
He made his way to the platform for the 7.40… and two minutes later there was an announcement to say the 7.34 was running. After a quick dash he managed to catch this train – and yet a recheck of the NRE app still showed it as a cancelled service.
Meanwhile at Three Bridges last night a Littlehampton train arrived just under an hour late.
It was due to split somewhere on the route with only the front four carriages going on to Littlehampton. At least that was what was being reported on the platform by some passengers.
However, because of delays due to a trespasser on the line between Gatwick and Redhill, the whole train was going to skip intermediate stations and go straight to Littlehampton. Platform staff didn’t seem to know this, so didn’t announce it. Consequently passengers got on, and then off again, asking what was going on – they were frustrated and confused.
There had been some sort of announcement on board but clearly not everyone had heard it or understood it. They looked to station staff and fellow passengers for assistance.
Just as confusing are some of the very vague announcements about cancelled services heard at St Pancras. ‘An operational incident’ is not clear enough. We have challenged Thameslink to be more honest about the causes and to give assistance with alternative transport.
This morning a colleague attempted to get from Manchester Piccadilly to Blackpool North, but the direct train terminated at Preston. There was no announcement – our colleague only realised when the information screen at Leyland showed the train as Preston only.
At Preston, the announcer said the Blackpool train was going from the next platform, but the doors closed by the time he made it. Platform staff helped him get on further down where the conductor was, but the lack of information may mean that passengers were left behind.
On the way back he tried to catch the 2.23 train from Blackpool North to Oxford Road. Though station screens showed it as ‘on time’ it wasn’t, and staff ushered waiting passengers onto a train to Preston instead. There were no announcements or explanations.
Passengers responding to our daily survey are indicating poor and confusing information too.
“Messed around going home. Got on a fast train (announced as fast & shown as fast on the display boards). At the next stop I overheard a platform announcement saying it was now slow (nothing announced by the driver). Had to change on to an already packed Farringdon station & then change again at St Albans, where the station was too packed for half the people trying to get to Harpenden to change platforms in time for the next train. In the morning the train was cancelled for no reason.”
(Harpenden to City Thameslink)
The usual rail chaos with trains delayed by 30+ minutes or being cancelled. The communication is extremely poor, you are left to figure out your own alternative routes home
(London Bridge to Preston Park)
“Thameslink journeys have been utterly unpredictable so it’s nerve wracking as well as frustrating. Will there be a train with room to squeeze on? When will I arrive? How late will I be? (Not will I be late as I know I will be) Should I just give up. After 25 years using the route I’ve no idea what the timetable is supposed to be. Online information is no use as allegedly on time trains simply disappear between setting off for the station and getting there.”
(St Albans to St Pancras)
“Change to train times but no information available at stations.”
(Bentley to Doncaster)
“Never sure if a train will turn up, and a lottery whether we get a seat. Never had this uncertainty before timetable changes.”
(Hazel Grove to Manchester Piccadilly)
One angry passenger is avoiding travelling as much as possible:
“It’s all a nightmare. The present Great Northern Thameslink chaos has meant I’ve avoided travelling as far as possible. It’s like train roulette – no way of knowing what trains are running or where they’re stopping. Last minute cancellations; departure boards both locally and at Kings Cross that are pure fiction; on-train announcements that contradict what was previously displayed; timetable apps that again bear little resemblance to what actually happens; staff totally in the dark about everything.”
Wednesday 13 June
We are pleased to see that rail operators heeded our call to allow passengers to travel with any company when affected by the timetable disruption.
Yesterday we reminded people to claim compensation when delayed. As the disruption carries on, it will be easy to lose count of delayed journeys. This handy website may help – you can check whether trains were delayed: http://recenttraintimes.co.uk/.
Gaps in services
Transport Focus is scrutinising the impact on passengers at stations where trains have been removed and subsequent cancellations are resulting in long gaps in services.
Between 7 and 8am on weekdays there are 5 departures from Littlehaven towards London of both Southern and Thameslink trains. The cancellation of the new Thameslink services means that passengers are either forced to travel to London Victoria, and then onto an already congested tube/bus network, or to change trains at stations such as Three Bridges/East Croydon to reach their intended destination. Often without being confident that their intended connection will arrive as planned. That connection might be considerably busier, and as a result less comfortable, than the direct train they would have caught.
During the off-peak period Littlehaven is fairly well served, with three to five trains an hour, but the frequent removal of the new Thameslink trains again means that passengers either have to change onto another mode once in London, or another Thameslink train at an interchange.
At the other end of the Horsham to Peterborough line passengers at St Neots are hit much harder in the off-peak. There the Peterborough to Horsham trains are meant to make up a half-hourly service, providing the only trains into London. As you can see from the screen grab below from recenttraintimes.co.uk, St Neots passengers have effectively been left without a service and no alternative:
A reliable timetable is critical. Where there is severe detriment like this to passengers we are pushing Thameslink to urgently address the issue and be honest with passengers about the impact.
Comments from passengers responding to our overnight survey reflect the stabilisation of Northern’s service:
“2 consecutive days the trains have had only 5 minutes delay….hooray.”
(Preston to Bolton)
However, a reliable train service doesn’t just mean on time:
“The train was surprisingly on time, it is usually late. On the down side it had only 2 carriages instead of normal 4.”
(Atherton to Salford)
And the emergency timetable means some passengers have had to change their plans:
“Again due to the emergency timetable I am getting a train 20 mins earlier, due to change of route the train is full of suitcases and busy… Just weary.”
(Widnes to Manchester Oxford Road)
Some passengers have given up on rail travel and found another way to make their journeys:
“Before the timetable changes there was a direct train from Stockport to Kirkby. Following the timetable changes this train was removed. I now have to go Stockport to Salford Crescent then from there to Kirkby. The first day of the new timetable the journey took 4.25 hours due to cancellations. The second day took 3 hours or so. By the third day I gave up and borrowed my son’s car which I have done every day since. These changes together with Lime St closing means there is no longer any certainty I can get to work and back in a reasonable manner.”
Thameslink and Great Northern
Some passengers have noticed an improvement:
“My train the 07.15 departure was not cancelled today. Indeed it ran virtually on time. This is only the second time that this has happened since the new timetable was introduced.”
(East Grinstead to London Bridge)
“Amazed we could actually get a train and not wait half an hour.”
(Harpenden to St Pancras)
When this is not delivered, as continues to be the case on many Thameslink and Great Northern trains, passengers become bored:
“I am just tired of never being sure if the trains will run as per the timetable or how long my journey may be if they are cancelled or delayed.”
(Harpenden to St Albans)
People become angry as they try to figure out what services are actually going to run:
“I went to London Bridge for the 11.30 to Redhill. This train was cancelled as the 11.18 to Rainham was stuck on platform 4 with no driver thus blocking any other trains from departing southbound. The 11.35 train to E.Croydon & Gatwick was cancelled. The 11.51 to Redhill arrived several minutes late & arrived 15 minutes late in Redhill or half an hour after 1 should have arrived at Redhill. On the way back I was lucky as when I got to Redhill station at 14.01, the 13.49 train to London Bridge was running 15 minutes late & I caught this train but it then got held up by a previous slow running train at Purley. It arrived at London bridge at 14.45 & unsurprisingly the 14.48 Thameslink train to Abbey was cancelled!”
Tuesday 12 June
This is the second week of Northern’s emergency timetable, and industry statistics show services have begun to stabilise as a result of the reduced services and use of replacement buses on some routes.
On Thameslink and Great Northern this morning there are still clear problems with a number of late notice cancellations and delays on services from the north into St Pancras and London Farringdon.
One colleague travelled from Kings Cross from Ely on an extremely busy service with two stops scheduled. The driver announced a further two stops – this made the journey very stuffy and unpleasant and over 15 minutes late. There was much grumbling from passengers. The driver apologised for the delay – however, it was over the amount of time that allows passengers to claim compensation through Delay Repay 15 so why not announce that?
We are gathering daily input from passengers through a short daily survey. We want to hear how passengers are feeling, the impact on their daily lives and if they are seeing any improvement week on week.
We are using this information to demonstrate to rail companies how badly people’s lives are impacted, and to encourage a generous compensation offer. Last night we heard that Northern passengers will receive a cash sum equivalent to one month’s travel on the worst-affected routes. But passengers will want to know who is eligible and how they claim so they can decide if this is a good deal.
We have also published our letter to Secretary of State Chris Grayling here.
Thameslink and Great Northern
Some passengers are angry about confusing information both online and at stations including one NHS worker:
“- Wrong information shown on National Rail Website – Wrong information provided by Gatwick Airport Train Staff. – Advised to take wrong (very slow) Thameslink train to East Croydon to change to a connecting Southern train. Once we eventually got to East Croydon, the connecting Southern Train was 15 minutes late.
“I trusted the Train Station staff which made me very stressed, angry and late. If they had told me to wait at Gatwick Station for 5-10mins I would have been able to get the direct Gatwick Express train to Victoria, for which I have an annual gold card ticket. I would have got to work on-time.
“I was 30 minutes late for taking over from my colleague (a lone 24hour on-call worker in a stressful NHS central London hospital). I myself, also a 24hour on-call lone worker in the NHS, arrived at my work stressed and out of breath from running. This could have dangerous, unintended consequences for patients in the NHS.”
(Gatwick to Victoria passenger)
Passengers are frustrated by constant delays and the impact on being late to work and worried about how this is impacting on their reputation:
“Every train, every morning, has been delayed by 5 – 10 minutes. This may not sound much but it means arriving at work 10 – 15 minutes late every day – or having to leave the house 10 minutes earlier, well before 07:00. This is putting my position at work at risk as I am seen as unreliable.”
(Tulse Hill to London Blackfriars)
One passenger travelling from Royston to Cambridge summed up his indifference:
“It was a normal journey, nothing special and better this week as the train was a train and on time!”
Where the emergency timetable means trains are replaced by buses some passengers are losing out:
“I had to get a rail replacement bus from Ormskirk to Preston as the service I needed to use is one of several peak hour services swapped for rail replacement bus services in the emergency timetable. Journey takes extra 35 minutes.”
(Ormskirk to Blackpool North)
Others are seeing the benefits of stabilising performance:
“Leeds – Southport services seem to be stabilising, the 1620 departure hasn’t been cancelled since the middle of last week. This is an improvement. Trans Pennine services seem to be in less disarray, less disruption due to them running late.”
(Leeds to Mirfield)
Passengers haven’t got what they paid for and want compensation:
“Train was 29 minutes late and was unable to get on that or the next one. Had to get a bus. I have a yearly season ticket and have paid nearly £40 out on bus journeys since the new timetable due to cancelled, delayed and overcrowded trains. I have paid for a service and am not able to access it! I am unsure as to whether or not it is worth me renewing my season ticket in July.”
(Swinton to Manchester Victoria)
Friday 8 June
The end of a torrid week for passengers on Thameslink (GTR) and Northern.
There is still no sign of the promised stability on Thameslink, with some passengers facing unacceptable gaps between services after cancellations. Some early, more promising, signs following the introduction of a temporary timetable on Northern.
See our letters to both operators here.
In the letters, as well as calling for better services and compensation, we invited the operators to attend special Board meetings in public.
These will be an opportunity to question the operators on what went wrong and, importantly, exactly what is being done to get things back on track.
Relaxing ticket restrictions
We pushed GTR this week to relax ticket restrictions so that passengers can get the first train that comes going to where they want to be. We suggested that passengers with tickets normally valid on Southern or Thameslink-only should for now be able to use the Gatwick Express. This is now happening.
Case study from last night
Abi, who is eight months pregnant, had a four-hour trek home from Huntingdon that included a slow crawl on a coach to Hitchin.
In a diary she kept for us, she described herself as ‘hungry and sad’ as the minutes ticked away and she still had no idea whether she had made the right decision to get on the coach rather than wait for a train.
The journey should have taken 55 mins on Thameslink, and then another hour from Finsbury Park to South London. It actually took over four hours after successive cancellations at Huntingdon.
She concluded: “I think it’s easier for me to be amused/upbeat by the complete bedlam because I only do this one or twice a week. I cannot imagine how soul destroying it would be to be stuck in this every single day.”
Thameslink cancellations and poor information
A colleague tried to travel to City Thameslink from Harpenden this morning. Arriving at 9.50am, there was no train until 10.22. He and fellow passengers kept checking the information boards wondering why there were no trains going south. There was no explanation. Eventually a train arrived, extremely crowded, more like an early morning commuter service than a mid-morning off-peak train.
Replacement buses in the Lake District
Despite the temporary timetable that takes out 165 trains, Northern passengers continued to experience delays and cancellations.
We have been monitoring the situation on the line between Windermere and Oxenholme in Cumbria, where much of the impact is felt. See our recent report.
Today we went back to the area to find out how passengers are finding the replacement bus service . We found plenty of staff at Oxenholme and clear information about where to find the buses. However, the bus timetable means some long waits for connecting trains – more than 45 minutes on occasion.
At Kendal we found volunteers from the Lakes Line Rail User Group helping out providing information to passengers. At 11.30am school children flooded through after exams and overwhelmed the mini-buses – some passengers were left behind until extra buses arrived.
Some passengers felt that at least the buses were better than unreliable trains – but frustrated that this is what it had come to.
Next week we’re going to be out asking passengers on the Windermere route to complete a simple survey about their experiences using the buses.
Thursday 7 June
Passengers continued to face too many delays and cancellations today. It appears to affect both commuters early in the morning and those travelling outside of this really busy time.
Those planning to use Thameslink peak trains into St Pancras this morning would seriously question the impact of any stability in services promised by GTR earlier in the week as they faced delayed and cancelled trains yet again.
Some cancellations and delays at St P on the Thameslink line. This was the situation at 08.30. Otherwise fairly ok. pic.twitter.com/SMISQWnQmt
— Toby Cotton (@TobiasCotton) June 7, 2018
The experience for those travelling to Kings Cross was better.
However, for those travelling later on the morning, the service did not improve – if anything it appeared to get worse.
The situation really did not improve through the morning as trains from Brighton to London St Pancras were impacted by severe delays. Passengers arriving at Horsham and Sutton stations found their services cancelled.
We challenged GTR this morning about automatic delay repay as we were made aware that some passengers had heard this method of receiving compensation had been removed by the operator.
We were assured that the operator had not removed this facility for its season ticket holders and these continue to be processed as normal.
Where some confusion may have arisen for passengers is that in wanting to ensure that passengers get the compensation they are entitled to, GTR advised passengers that they may be best submitting a manual claim. So, trying to do the right thing but got muddled up in communications.
Wednesday 6 June
Passengers on routes in the North West are being forced to adapt to the emergency timetable introduced by Northern on Monday. We have continued to monitor services.
This morning there were still delays and cancellations that will have undoubtedly spoiled passengers’ days, but so far not the widespread chaos of recent weeks. Passengers should expect nothing less since 165 trains have been taken out of the normal timetable and will be hoping the service begins to stabilise.
Trains arriving from North of Manchester were noticeably quieter this morning, while we have heard reports of increases in passengers on buses and cars on the road. Is this a sign that some passengers have had enough and are abandoning the train?
Where lines have been sacrificed and left with a bus replacement service 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 full timetable as Govia Thameslink Railway has.
Passengers deserve compensation if they are 30 minutes late or more in arriving at their destination because their service has been removed from the timetable or replaced by a bus. It’s vital the special compensation scheme announced this week reflects the extent of the disruption to people’s lives. Passengers will be keenly awaiting details from Northern about how to claim.
What’s needed now is certainty about the timetable for the coming weeks. Northern have said it won’t run a full service until the end of July, but what should passengers planning a journey for next week do? They need a published timetable they can rely on.
Thameslink passengers call for better information
Colleagues were out on the ground during the Tuesday 5 June morning peak reporting services through London Bridge and Victoria were running okay. When we looked online it showed a few services delayed arriving into St Pancras and Kings Cross.
A colleague reported it being extremely crowded during 5 June morning peak 0735 Wimbledon Chase to City Thameslink service.
The evening peak so far this week has been a real mixed bag. Colleagues reported a relatively normal service at Victoria. However, passengers arriving at City Thameslink were faced with cancellations. Services from St Pancras to Bedford all looked fine but services to Luton and Peterborough were cancelled.
Information updates online are not helping passengers and can be confusing. A colleague needing confidence on times of trains home to pick up their kids checked as instructed by GTR only to be faced with confusing information about disruption.
She fed back to say…
“What the hell does this mean?! My service is disrupted – does that mean delayed or cancelled?? I now have no idea whether I’ll make it back for nursery pickup and I can’t realistically be leaving work in time to get a 4.30 train home!”
Tuesday 5 June
Unprecedented delays and cancellations continue to make life miserable for some Northern, Thameslink and Great Northern passengers.
The announcement of special compensation above and beyond the usual is welcome. But passengers’ first priority is to get services running so that they can plan their lives with some certainty.
An inquiry into what has happened and why is welcome – including an understanding of how, despite strong assurances, these welcome investments and potential improvements have gone so sour.
The relative roles played by governments, Network Rail and train companies need to be analysed and understood so that timetable planning can be put back on a proper footing for the long term. This can’t be allowed to happen again at the next timetable change in December.
On 4 June our chief executive met with Nick Brown, chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway and pushed on the following improvements:
- stable timetable that allows passengers to plan better
- better information and lots of staff on the ground
- compensation over and above Delay Repay 15.
Yet more disruption for passengers…
Members of the Transport Focus team continue to go out and about looking at how well the introduction is going.
It was not a good start on Thameslink on Monday 4 June as early morning delays and cancellations into London St Pancras showed.
Later in the morning passengers at Blackfriars were faced with a screen full of cancellations and delays.
Passengers expecting to catch trains from London Bridge also faced delays and cancellations.
Northern rail emergency timetable
Despite the introduction of the emergency timetable Northern passengers faced more disruption.
— Becky M (@BeckyMatley7) June 4, 2018
Under the new timetable around 165 trains a day have been cut until the end of next month.
All services on the Lakes Line to and from Preston, Lancaster and Oxenholme are operating as a replacement bus service.
One passenger told us about the impact the timetable disruption is having on their life:
“I travel on the Bolton to Manchester line and, to be honest, it’s hard to know where to start. Since before the introduction of the new timetables, Northern were cancelling or delaying trains during rush hour. Introducing the new timetables has exacerbated the disruption… Travelling to work has become a complete lottery….”
Northern has announced a temporary change to its timetable to help reduce delays and cancellations.
Passengers have clearly been let down and will want to see services back to normal as soon as possible. They need accurate information, at stations and online, now.
Continuing poor performance has eroded their trust in the railway. To start rebuilding that trust we want to see an honest, realistic interim plan that leads to a return of reliable services.
Passengers deserve better compensation for the misery they have experienced, especially commuters who have paid in advance through their season ticket.
We continue to monitor the impact of the timetable changes. Transport Focus has discussed recovery plans with senior staff at Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern.
We are calling for:
- delivery of a reliable timetable quickly, one that passengers can trust and not have to check every time they travel
- a focus on accurate, clear and consistent information that allows passengers to make decisions about their journeys
- compensation that goes beyond the minimal obligation of Delay Repay.
Cancelled and delayed trains
This has clearly been another very frustrating week for passengers on some Northern and GTR train services with many trains were either delayed, cancelled and crowded when a service did turn up.
This morning a colleague was stuck at Horsham with pretty much every service between seven and eight o’clock cancelled.
The 07.34 service is one of the new Thameslink services that appears on the online journey planner one day, and not there the next. It was showing this morning on journey planners and on the station screen as running but then cancelled just one minute before departure.
Lack of confidence in information
The lack of confidence in information both online and at stations is adding to passenger frustration.
A colleague relayed a commute from Finsbury Park to Welwyn Garden City this week. Trains are now much longer and therefore less crowded. However, the main frustration from the timetable change is that all the information is wrong on the app. So she will turn up at the station and the app says that everything is running normally and then there won’t be a train for twenty minutes.
Our colleague said that it’s particularly frustrating as the staff also have no idea what information is correct. Whilst she appreciated that it wasn’t their fault, it meant there is no one to ask for updates. The other day the staff announced ‘We’ve lost a train, it’s just gone missing!’ which obviously isn’t helpful info for anyone.
She feels this lack of information is the most frustrating part of the whole change because it really affects her ability to plan.
Mixed experiences for passengers
A member of a rail user group reported that the main impact on him has just been restricted choice travelling Harpenden to and from London. Out of 12 journeys this week he had a seat on all of them, six right time journeys and just one journey that triggered Delay Repay where delays are 15 minutes or more.
A fellow member of the group who travels from Leagrave to West Hampstead reports out of their 10 journeys one journey was on time and five journeys were more than 15 minutes delays. Six of the journeys were so crowded that passengers were “crushed” against one another.
All Northern services between Oxenholme and Windermere have been cancelled.
One passenger travelling on Northern wrote us to tell about his concerns:
‘I really hope things improve. I have now stopped using the train as Northern cannot be relied upon.
I don’t envisage seeing any improvements on the horizon. What a mess it is…
The wider issue here is how and why were Northern allowed to even proceed with the new timetable if they knew it was going to fail?
Or did they not even realise this? It is also interesting to note that the staffing issue was quite late to emerge as a reason for the disruption. I am amazed that there is no accountability anywhere.
I value bodies like Transport Focus as they really do get the issues from the perspective of the customer. My concern is how much Northern have not been honest – the delayed infrastructure handback from Network Rail has been exaggerated. There is no owning up to their staffing issues or allowing Rest Day Working to be pulled – surely they knew this would impact on delivery of the timetable.
Anyway, thank you again for your efforts and please do keep the pressure on them.’
Passengers just do not trust the new timetable. Too often this week they have turned up at stations expecting to catch a particular train only to find it is not running or delayed.
Delays and cancellations continue for passengers on Thameslink and Northern services.
Members of the Transport Focus team continue to go out and about looking at how the introduction of the timetable is going, how passengers are impacted and how operators are handling the disruption.
During the return to work after the bank holiday, on Tuesday, there were more than 250 cancellations on Northern rail services. Transport Focus also observed many delays and cancellations on Govia Thameslink Railway services.
It is clear commuters have been let down and will want to see services back to normal as soon as possible. They need accurate information, at stations and online, which matches what is actually happening on the ground. Train operators and Network Rail need to show that they can run things reliably even when bringing in change.
We want to know when passengers can expect to see this settle down and when they can rely on the new timetable. We’re also calling for generous compensation for passengers when things do go wrong.
As many commuters get back to work after the half-term holiday next week we will be looking to operators to get the timetable back on track.
In the meantime, train operators must:
- be generous with compensation when things do go wrong
- have plenty of staff on the ground to help passengers
- make sure there is clear, accurate and concise information at the station and online.
We’re still keen to hear from you. How has the timetable affected your journey? You can tell us about your experience by tweeting us @transportfocus.
We continue to use this information to feed back to individual operators, transport authorities and Government on where things can be improved.
How did it all go?
Some Northern passengers had a torrid time. Many trains delayed or cancelled in the North West. One in seven of its services were cancelled on the first morning, with a further 17 per cent delayed by at least five minutes. There were lots of staff around and good information at places like Bolton but this no substitute for sticking to the basic promise of the railways: running the trains on time.
We were at St Pancras from early morning right through the peak Thameslink rush hour. Yes, some trains were cancelled and some delayed but generally it seemed alright. What was noticeable was the crowding. Changing times is pushing people into different, already busy services. Trains need to be as long as possible. While an eight-carriage train might have worked in the past the pressure on the system means 12 carriages are needed. We will keep a close eye on these crowding levels.
Transport Focus have also been out on Great Northern and Southern reporting similar experiences. Lots of Govia Thameslink Railway staff were actively helping passengers get to grips with the changes.
So, as passengers get used to the new times and as the industry gets used to running them hopefully teething problems will get ironed out.
You can read more about this in our chief executive’s latest blog here.