Train passengers being misled in the run up to Christmas

11 December 2017

Give passengers proper warning when you dig up the tracks, says the watchdog.

A Transport Focus investigation has found that some parts of the rail industry are failing to tell passengers in time if their journey will be disrupted by engineering works.

In the lead up to Christmas the watchdog found that passengers were able to buy tickets for trains that will not run or would be disrupted by engineering works.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:

“Failure to release timetables 12 weeks ahead of travel can mean passengers buy tickets for trains that will not run. That can’t be right.

“Train operators’ advice is to book early at Christmas to get the best deal, but if the timetable has not been finalised only more expensive ‘on the day’ tickets can be bought.

“Being forced to change plans because the railway hasn’t got this right will only result in more frustration from passengers. The rail industry must act urgently to make sure the timetable is accurate 12 weeks ahead if passengers are to trust they are on their side.”

Passengers need to know what the railway is doing so they can book tickets for events, organise family occasions or even decide whether to travel or not. If changes are made to the timetable, it means some passengers will have made decisions based on inaccurate information – only to be caught out.

Transport Focus’s chief executive has now written to the chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group about the failure to meet obligations to ensure timetable changes are made at least 12 weeks in advance.

Transport Focus is calling on the rail industry to:
• carry out a network-wide review to ensure Network Rail and train operators publish correct timetables 12 weeks ahead
• notify passengers who have already bought tickets when there have been changes to the timetable
• make sure timetable information on the internet which is known to be wrong is removed or warnings are applied.

Transport Focus will be checking again in advance of the next major period of engineering works at Easter to ensure published timetables are correct.


Notes to editors

For further information please contact:
Kieran Watkins, senior communications officer
Tel: 0300 123 0836 or email:

Railway obligation (T-12)
The rail industry obligation is to ensure timetables are correct 12 weeks in advance (T-12). This helps passengers make sensible plans, stops them buying more expensive tickets than they need and avoids them being surprised by bus replacement services.

Transport Focus’s letter and enclosure to the Rail Delivery Group, Great Western Railway and Network Rail Western Route, along with a response from GWR and Network Rail, can be found here.

Like what you read? Please click below to share on social media.