The national rail watchdog has opened an investigation into whether Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Northern have breached passenger information requirements over the May timetable debacle.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) will look into whether the operators did 'everything reasonably practicable to provide appropriate, accurate and timely information to passengers' in the run-up to the timetable change and and following disruption.
If found in breach of their licence obligations, GTR and Northern could face a financial penalty.
Last month the ORR found that Network Rail, GTR, Northern, the Department for Transport (DfT), and the ORR itself all made mistakes that contributed to the ‘collapse’ of services, particularly on the GTR and Northern routes.
In a statement the watchdog said: 'The ORR is investigating whether GTR and Northern breached Condition 4 of their ‘Statement of National Regulatory Provisions’ which requires train companies to provide “appropriate, accurate and timely information to enable railway passengers and prospective passengers to plan and make their journeys with a reasonable degree of assurance, including when there is disruption”.'
ORR will use evidence gathered from its current monitoring and inquiry to date and any further information provided to ORR in the course of the investigation. It has written to GTR and Northern for their responses and aims to conclude its investigation before the end of November 2018.
The opening of an investigation does not imply any findings about non-compliance by either company.
A Northern spokesperson said: 'We are truly sorry for the inconvenience passengers experienced as a result of the May timetable change. The ORR's own Glaister Inquiry found that the root cause of the May timetable disruption was delays to new infrastructure.
'Delays to infrastructure meant we had to plan and deliver a new timetable in 16 weeks rather than the normal 40 weeks, which did not leave enough time to train our drivers on the new routes and types of train in the May timetable.
'We now welcome the opportunity to discuss the detailed reasons with ORR that affected the quality of information provided to passengers during the disruption.'
A GTR spokesperson said: 'We will cooperate fully with the ORR's investigation.'