Misery for many – so what can be done?

28 June 2018

Many rail passengers have faced daily delays, confusion and cancellations since a new timetable came in on 20 May.

Northern, Thameslink and Great Northern passengers were all affected.

Transport Focus has:

  • pushed for improved compensation arrangements
  • held industry to account at a public Board meeting
  • collected passenger feedback to inform industry and Government.

In the north

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.

We held a public Board meeting in Manchester to quiz David Brown (Northern managing director), Leo Goodwin (TransPennine Express managing director) and Patrick Cawley (director of route sponsorship, Network Rail). We shared passengers’ stories of 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.

The Lakes Line between Oxenholme and Windermere was one of the worst hit, 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.

We’ve been on that line again in recent days speaking to passengers and seeing what they think. Longer term, passengers will now want to know when a full service will resume on this and Northern’s other affected routes.

Down south

On Thameslink and Great Northern, both performance and information continue to disappoint passengers. Last week we met Govia Thameslink Railway’s chief operating officer Nick Brown to discuss getting the timetable back on track, and appropriate compensation.

For a few weeks we have been calling for GTR to publish an interim timetable that passengers can be confident will actually run. At our meeting we heard that this would happen in July, with weekly interim timetables published until then.

GTR also promised to improve communication of its remedial plan so that passengers can have more confidence about which trains are expected to run and where bus replacements will be offered.

We welcomed 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 have stressed to all the rail operators concerned in this timetable meltdown that compensation must go above and beyond the ‘basics’.

We have pushed for:

  • passengers in the north to be able to claim compensation after 15 minutes delay rather than 30, as is the case on Thameslink services
  • special compensation that recognises the full extent of the disruption to people’s lives.
  • recognition of the impact on regular travellers who do not buy season tickets – for instance part-time workers or leisure/business passengers who make regular journeys. This could take the form of a number of free journeys.

What next?

We continue to work with operators to ensure they understand the far-reaching impact of the timetable disruption, and to press for a quicker return to stable service and better compensation offerings.

We meet regularly with officials and politicians in Westminster and other authorities to keep them updated.

We will also contribute to the official enquiry into the timetable meltdown.

Members of the Transport Focus team continue to get out and about looking at how passengers are getting on.

We’re also keen to hear from you – tweet us @transportfocus and respond to our survey.

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