'Nobody took charge', says major report on rail timetable chaos

The timetable chaos during the Summer brought misery to tens of thousands of commuters

From 20 May, passengers suffered delays and cancellations after the rail industry attempted to introduce the biggest timetable change in a generation.

The Department for Transport described the review as the most significant since British Rail was privatised by John Major's government in the mid-1990s. Timetables have been rewritten a few times since then in repeated efforts to retrieve the situation.

He added: "Central to the issues were that good intentions and over-optimism within the rail industry about its ability to recover missed deadlines left no time to uncover and fix problems".

"A key issue, found by the Inquiry, is that there is an apparent gap in industry responsibility and accountability for managing systemic risks, and that needs to change". The ORR says that needs to change.

"The industry, as a whole, failed to foresee that these combined factors created a serious risk that the revised timetable could fail", the report said.

The interim report from the regulator said both the DfT and the rail industry "placed engineering and planning concerns ahead of serving its passengers".

The System Operator (SO) function within Network Rail was in the best position to understand and manage the risks, but did not take sufficient action, especially in the critical period of autumn 2017.

Hartley-Brewer asked: "Given how much more taxpayers money is going in, would we not be reasonable to expect that we would have the sort of rail network we see sometimes in western Europe, where they've got nationalised services?". It will it take into account the findings of his final report at the end of the year.

The DfT said the review would consider all parts of the sector, including accountability, the franchising system and value for money for passengers and taxpayers.

It is not yet clear if the DfT will be ruling anything out, although renationalisation is unlikely to be high on the list.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling - who had previously insisted: "I don't run the railways" - told the BBC's Today programme that the problem was system-wide and that it was his job to "make sure it doesn't happen again". On-going industrial action in a dispute over the role of train guards has meant further disruption to schedules. And neither GTR nor Northern were properly aware of or prepared for the problems in delivering the timetable and did not do enough to provide accurate information to passengers when disruption occurred, the report said. It is vital that this review leaves no stone unturned and makes bold recommendations for the future'.

There has been widespread industry reaction this morning.

The Yorkshire Post says: Rail failures of responsibility.

He added: "The structural issues highlighted in this report underline the need for the wide-ranging, root and branch rail review we have been calling for to deliver meaningful reform".

He will publish his conclusions next year, with the government expected to implement reforms to the railway system from 2020.

"The introduction of a badly botched new timetable in May, alongside delayed infrastructure improvements, turned the lives of thousands of passengers upside down".

Events and decisions taken before January meant it was "probably unavoidable" that the launch would fail, according to the report.

In response to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) Inquiry's findings that passengers in the city-region were "let down by rail industry failures" during this summer's chaos on the railway, Tthe Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, Bev Hughes has said the findings make "grim reading". This report from the rail regulator is merely the latest to highlight the dysfunctional buck passing which goes on across the rail industry.

The Rail Freight Group called for freight to be "at the heart" of the DfT's review. Executive director Maggie Simpson said: 'Across the country, our members are hungry for more rail freight, but it can be hard to deliver their expectations when there is an ever-greater focus on integrating track and passenger services.

The RMT dubbed the ORR report as a "whitewash".

In June, he caused anger among MPs by claiming "I don't run railways".

Prof Glaister told the BBC that the ORR itself had failings - like everyone else in the industry. The railway in its current form is not working for passengers.

New figures revealed have revealed that punctuality of services has fallen to a 12-year low, while fares have risen by above inflation. It is understandable that passengers have lost faith and trust.

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