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14 March 2019, 12:55 | Updated: 14 March 2019, 12:57
Thameslink's parent firm, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), has been fined £5m by the rail regulator over its poor communication with passengers during the chaotic introduction of a new timetable.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said GTR "failed to provide appropriate, accurate and timely information" amid severe disruption on its Thameslink and Great Northern routes for eight weeks following the launch of the May 2018 timetable.
Some trains were permanently removed from the timetable but this was not made clear to passengers for several weeks, according to the ORR.
Other trains were removed or cancelled on a daily basis, leading to a "severe lack of certainty for passengers up until the point of travel", the ORR said.
The investigation also found that inadequate internal communication within GTR often left station staff with "little or no information" to help passengers.
These failures left passengers with "very little notice or certainty" about what trains would run.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, said:
"Passengers were badly let down when the new timetable descended into chaos on some Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern routes, and information was often poor.
This £5m fine for Govia Thameslink should be a wake-up call to train companies that accurate passenger information really matters.
It is important that the money from this fine is reinvested to benefit those passengers who suffered last year."
The number of trains cancelled each day by GTR and Northern following the May 2018 timetable launch reached up to 470 and 310 respectively.
Train companies, government-owned infrastructure company Network Rail and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling were all blamed for the chaos.
Industry body the Rail Delivery Group insists it has "learned the lessons" from the disruption ahead of another timetable change in May.
The severe disruption following last May's timetable introduction was due to industry-wide factors and we are sorry for the serious effect this had on our passengers
GTR chief executive Patrick Verwer said:
"We are disappointed at today's fine imposed by the Office of Rail and Road.
We are making significant improvements to information for passengers. These include upgrades to station screens, issuing frontline staff with new smartphones loaded with real-time service information, and we have volunteer teams on stand-by to help passengers during disruption.
Further improvements in customer information are planned.
The severe disruption following last May's timetable introduction was due to industry-wide factors and we are sorry for the serious effect this had on our passengers.
GTR has paid £18m in passenger compensation and is investing a further £15m in improvements for passengers for its part in the timetable issues."