MPs criticise Chris Grayling over handling of rail timetable 'chaos'

MPs criticise Chris Grayling over handling of rail timetable chaos

Image: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Transport Secretary has been criticised by MPs for his handling of changes to rail timetables in May this year.

In a scathing report about the timetable changes, the Transport Select Committee branded the changes "chaotic", rather than the "genuine change" anticipated by regular users of the railways.

The MPs said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was not fully informed of the serious problems caused by the changes, but added it was not reasonable for him to absolve himself of all responsibility.



The committee added that passengers most affected by the delays and cancellations should receive a discount on 2019 tickets.

Last week's announcement that rail fares will increase by an average of 3.1 per cent added "insult to passengers' injury", said Lilian Greenwood, who chairs the committee.

Ms Greenwood said: "It is extraordinary, and totally unacceptable, that no-one took charge of the situation and acted to avert the May timetabling crisis.

"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.”


'A catastrophe waiting to happen' 

Graeme Paton, the Transport Correspondent for The Times described the timetable change as “a catastrophe waiting to happen” in an interview with talkRADIO's Matthew Wright.

"It was shocking that anyone would be surprised by this. It was the biggest timetable change ever attempted," he said.

“Just look at the scale of the number of changes with 42,300 trains affected. 46 per cent of the entire train network had its timetable altered.

“Anyone who uses the trains on a daily basis know it was a catastrophe waiting to happen."



A Department for Transport spokesman 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 eight per cent 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."