No repeat of chaos this time, rail firms are warned

Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire
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The rail industry must “pull out all the stops” next week to avoid a repeat of the chaos that crippled services in Yorkshire at the same time last year, the passenger watchdog has warned.

The new national timetable due to be introduced next Sunday must deliver “more punctual and reliable services”, Transport Focus said.

The botched introduction of last May’s timetable caused wholesale delays, with Northern Rail, the region’s biggest operator, cancelling 310 trains each day.

Many of the problems persisted for seven months, until the next new timetable was introduced.

An investigation by the Office of Rail found a “lack of clarity” about responsibilities and said “nobody took charge”.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said: “Passengers want nothing less than a smooth set of changes that deliver tangible improvements.

“They paid a hefty price a year ago for a poorly managed set of major timetable changes. To regain the confidence of passengers, the rail industry must pull out all the stops to ensure these improvements deliver more punctual and reliable services.

“Passengers will expect someone to be placed in charge of major timetable changes in future, to ensure robust oversight and with the power to hit the stop button when something is not going to work.”

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the train franchisees and Network Rail, insisted the industry had learned from last year, and would make changes only where there was a “high confidence” that the necessary trains and staff were ready.