HOW bad do services have to get before rail operators like Northern are actually penalised for providing a shoddy service? This question is fundamental to the Office of Road and Rail’s decision not to impose any financial censure for poor communication during last year’s timetable chaos on the region’s railways.
After all, the ORR’s own inquiry confirmed that Northern’s methods to relay up-to-date information to staff and rail travellers were “largely unsuccessful” – and that many passengers “did not find the information given to them to be accurate or helpful”. This was after the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said disruption had cost the local economy £38m in lost productivity.
Given the watchdog has fined Govia Thameslink Railway for similar failings, it clearly does have the power to use such sanctions – the issue is its reluctance to use them.
And this is why rail users deserve a full and frank explanation. For not only is this decision an insult to all those commuters whose lives became a misery through no fault of their own – but it is even more insulting to the disabled, who were made to feel even more unwelcome because no one recognised their needs.
If the ORR does not recognise this, then the new Transport Secretary will need to do so if and when Chris Grayling is finally replaced.