Train timetable uncertainty leaves passengers in the dark, warns watchdog

23 February 2018

Rail passengers are being let down again by train timetable uncertainty, warns independent watchdog Transport Focus.

It comes after today’s announcement that timetables will not all be correct 12 weeks in advance – a long-standing obligation on Network Rail. A temporary six-week target to get timetables right will apply instead. A Transport Focus investigation before Christmas, exposed a number of failures to meet the 12-week target.

Passengers will now not know for certain if their journey will be affected by engineering works until six weeks before, including whether they will be on a replacement bus or need to use a different station from normal. It may also mean cheaper Advance tickets go on sale later than usual.

Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Passengers have been badly let down and will be deeply frustrated that they can’t make plans with certainty. They are also at risk of paying more, so we will monitor the effectiveness of the industry’s no-quibble commitment.

“Network Rail and train companies need to do everything possible to minimise the uncertainty and make sure passengers aren’t out of pocket. The timetable must be accurate against the temporary six-week target.

“The rail industry must demonstrate that it has a clear plan to get things back on track and avoid this happening again. Industry regulator the Office of Rail and Road should carry out a formal investigation.”

Passengers will want to see action in three areas.

Excellent information

  • It being clear at every point of an enquiry or ticket purchase that the timetable may still change.
  • A commitment to get in touch with those who’ve already bought tickets if train times change afterwards.

Not being out of pocket

  • If cheaper Advance tickets have not yet gone on sale, passengers buying a more expensive ticket in the meantime should get a no-quibble refund if a cheaper ticket becomes available later.
  • Train companies should confirm that they’ll still offer the same number of cheaper Advance tickets as usual.

Getting back to business as usual

  • Go back to the normal 12-week deadline for publishing an accurate timetable as soon as possible.

How you could be affected

A passenger planning a trip or buying a ticket more than six weeks in advance could:

  • plan a weekend away using trains that are later rescheduled for a different time, end at a different station, take much longer or be replaced with buses
  • buy tickets for a show or sporting event on the basis that they can get there by train, only to find the timetable changes six weeks in advance and they can’t
  • buy a more expensive Anytime or Off-Peak ticket, unaware that a cheaper Advance ticket went on sale later.

For further information please contact:

Kieran Watkins, Senior communications officer

Tel: 0300 123 0836 or e-mail:

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