Rail timetable chaos: calls for ticket discount for Bedford commuters

Bedford Train at Station

The Transport Select Committee says commuters worst affected by the new train timetable chaos in May, should have discounts to their 2019 season tickets equivalent to the price rises announced on 30 November.

In their report on the chaos surrounding the roll-out of the new rail timetable in May, MPs on the Transport Select Committee said the chaotic rollout of the national rail timetable change on 20 May 2018, must be the catalyst for genuine change for people who rely on the railways.

The report, Rail timetable changes: May 2018, continued that governance and decision-making processes were not fit for purpose creating a collective, system-wide failure across Network Rail, the privately-owned train operating companies, the Department for Transport and the Office of Road and Rail.

Read: Commuter reaction

Chair of the Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said: “It is extraordinary, and totally unacceptable, that no-one took charge of the situation and acted to avert the May timetabling crisis.

“Instead of experiencing the benefits of much-needed investment in our railways, around one in five passengers experienced intensely inconvenient and costly disruption to their daily lives. There was extraordinary complacency about protecting the interests of passengers, who were very badly let down.

“Friday’s announcement of fare rises averaging 3.1% in 2019, which came after we had agreed our Report, adds insult to passengers’ injury.

“We recommend that 2018 season ticket holders most affected by the timetabling crisis receive a discount on their 2019 season tickets equivalent to the increase announced on 30 November.”

The report also recommended:

  • Immediate priority must be to establish effective oversight of the next national rail timetable changes
  • Rail timetabling process requires genuinely independent oversight located outside Network Rail to avoid commercial and political pressures.
  • Worst-affected 2018 season ticket holders should receive a discount on 2019 season tickets, equivalent to the price rise announced on 30 November
  • Effective contingency plans for disabled passengers and stringent enforcement
  • Events demonstrate overwhelming case for automated, or automatic compensation scheme

Responding to the report, Patrick Verwer, Chief Executive of Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “We acknowledge the report by the Transport Select Committee into the industry-wide issues surrounding the introduction of the May timetable.

“We are very sorry for the disruption the May timetable caused and have already processed compensation claims for 68,000 season ticket holders, with the deadline for claims extended to 31 January 2019.

“Since July, services on Thameslink and Great Northern have become more stable and reliable. Next week we will begin to introduce 200 mainly off-peak services to complete the phased roll-out of the May weekday timetable, bringing the total number of daily weekday services to 3,600.”

Meanwhile, the report also cited the Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, as part of the problem. It said he should have been more proactive and that it is not reasonable for him to absolve himself completely of all responsibility. But the report does conceed that he was not given all the information he required to avert the crisis by halting implementation.

Mr Grayling has since announced a much broader review of the rail industry, which will be published in 2019 and implemented from 2020.

Changes to the national rail timetable occur each May and December and are often relatively minor tweaks. In May 2018, following major infrastructure works, an unprecedented timetable change of around four times the typical scale was planned, involving 43,200 individual changes and affecting 46% of passenger services.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “We know that passengers were badly let down in May and as an industry we are really sorry. It is important we act now, learn lessons and take on board recommendations. We have to work together to make sure our capacity to deliver change matches the expectations that passengers rightly have and deserve.”

“We agree that a whole system approach to timetable planning and implementation, with effective oversight and accountability, must be the way forward. This will require a fundamental shift in how we undertake industry planning and we have already started on that path as we look to ensure that passengers see the benefit of record investment and new services, welcoming them with confidence rather than concern.”

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