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Network Rail ordered to take action after timetabling mess

Network rail crowds

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has ordered Network Rail to “immediately” take action to sort out its timetabling mess.

The rail watchdog has demanded that Network Rail “improves services for passengers after an investigation found systemic failings in the company’s general management of timetable changes”.

While the ORR said that “failings may go beyond Netowork Rail”, it highlighted a serious need for “better coordination between the part of Network Rail carrying out the work (Infrastructure Projects) - and its timetabling function (System Operator).” 

Earlier this year, transport secretary Chris Grayling blamed Network Rail infrastructure hold-ups for ‘‘unacceptable’’ delays and cancellations during the introduction of new train timetables across the country.

Network Rail must now present a “decision on structural reform and provide ORR with a draft plan by 30 September”.

ORR director of railway markets and economics John Larkinson said: “Network Rail’s failings in the run up to the May timetable led to massive disruption, uncertainty and inconvenience to passengers.

“Network Rail has acted to bring the industry together to address timetabling issues but more and faster change is needed to provide assurance to passengers. That is why we have set out these actions designed to improve capability within Network Rail.

“Our ongoing broader Inquiry is looking at the role of the whole industry in the May timetabling problems and this may lead to further recommendations.”

The ORR has also requested Network Rail provides a report into its delivery of a December 2018 timetable by the end of August.

The rail body is also required to present a first draft of its plans to strengthen timetabling capability and resources by 17 September.

Network Rail managing director system operator Jo Kaye said: “It’s clear from the ORR’s investigation that the issues with timetabling go much further than Network Rail, and we welcome and look forward to the industry-wide inquiry.

“We remain truly sorry for the part we played in the process that caused disruption for so many people and we have learned lessons to make sure it is not repeated.

“We are already putting the ORR’s required plan into action including establishing new joint working arrangements with train operators to support development of the timetables for December 2018 and May 2019.” 

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