Grayling back in firing line as MPs demand reform of rail timetabling

 

The Government has still refused to provide a fare freeze for passengers badly affected by the spring timetable chaos, despite senior MPs now calling for the compensatory measure.

MPs on the cross party Transport Select Committee have called for a fare freeze for passengers worst affected by the spring rail timetable chaos, followed by ‘genuine change for people who rely on the railways’.

A report by the committee said that the crisis was partly due to the ‘astonishing complexity’ of a fragmented railway but that it is not reasonable for transport secretary Chris Grayling to absolve himself completely of all responsibility.

”Local

MPs endorsed the key conclusion of the inquiry led by Professor Stephen Glaister, chair of the Office of Road and Rail, that ‘nobody took charge’, adding that there was a collective, system-wide failure across Network Rail, the train operating companies (TOCs), the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office of Road and Rail.

They found that governance and decision-making processes were ‘not fit for purpose’.

Committee chair Lilian Greenwood MP, said: ‘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.’

Referring to Mr Grayling’s announcement of a year-long independent rail review, to be conducted by Keith Williams, Ms Greenwood said: ‘While the need for fundamental reform is beyond doubt, passengers cannot wait until 2020 for key lessons to be learned and reforms implemented.’

MPs said the immediate priority must be to establish effective ‘genuinely independent oversight’ of the next national rail timetable changes, later this month and twice next year.

In addition, MPs said the worst-affected 2018 season ticket holders should receive a discount on 2019 season tickets, equivalent to the price rise announced last week, adding that the fiasco ‘demonstrates the overwhelming case for automated, or automatic compensation schemes’.

MPs also said that putting in place adequate contingency plans to assist disabled people if timetable changes do not go plan must now be a central part TOCs’ timetable planning processes.

A DfT spokesperson said: 'We have already worked with the industry to deliver special compensation schemes on Northern, TransPennine Express and GTR, which provides the equivalent of up to 8% of the cost of an annual season ticket for those most severely impacted.

'The disruption following the May timetable change demonstrated that significant change is required in the rail industry. That is why we launched the Williams review to consider all parts of the industry in order to put passengers first, with reforms to begin from 2020.'

 

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