Hundreds of services were cut in May after major disruption to train services on the Northern and Thameslink networks following the introduction of a new timetable on May 20.

ORR says NR’s need to rewrite the timetable seven weeks after it sent the draft to industry in November 2017 showed NR did not implement best practice in timetable planning, which caused a knock-on effect that timetables could not be finalised 12 weeks in advance.

ORR has required NR to: 

  • provide a report to ORR by August 31 demonstrating how it is running an efficient, fair, effective and transparent process in revising upcoming timetables
  • revise its recovery plan by August 31 to get timetables back to being agreed 12 weeks in advance and publicly report on progress
  • accelerate progress on ORR-approved plans to strengthen timetabling capability and resources, including specific indicators against which ORR will publicly report Network Rail’s progress, and
  • speed up decisions on structural reform and provide ORR with a draft plan by September 30.

ORR says that during the investigation, which was opened in February, it was clear that the failings may go beyond NR which led to the need for ORR’s subsequent industry-wide timetabling Inquiry, which was announced by the secretary of state for transport, Mr Chris Grayling. ORR says it will share the findings from the investigation with the broader inquiry and will set out a further long-term and fundamental review of timetabling in the autumn.

“NR’s failings in the run up to the May timetable led to massive disruption, uncertainty and inconvenience to passengers,” says ORR’s director, railway markets and economics, Mr John Larkinson. “Network Rail has acted to bring the industry together to address timetabling issues but more and faster change is needed to provide assurance to passengers. That is why we have set out these actions designed to improve capability within NR. Our ongoing broader inquiry is looking at the role of the whole industry in the May timetabling problems and this may lead to further recommendations.”

“We accept the findings of the ORR investigation into why timetables weren’t finalised 12 weeks in advance,” says NR system operator managing director, Ms Jo Kaye. “It’s clear from the ORR’s investigation that the issues with timetabling go much further than NR, and we welcome and look forward to the industry-wide inquiry. We remain truly sorry for the part we played in the process that caused disruption for so many people and we have learned lessons to make sure it is not repeated. We are already putting the ORR’s required plan into action including establishing new joint working arrangements with train operators to support development of the timetables for December 2018 and May 2019.”