South Western Railway 'Must Avoid Timetable Chaos'

10 May 2019, 08:55 | Updated: 10 May 2019, 08:58

South Western Railways train

Rail companies - including South Western Railway - are being urged to make sure there's no repeat of last year's chaos when timetables change next week.

The passenger watchdog  Transport Focus says they must deliver "more punctual and reliable services".

Travellers are being urged to check departure times as train operators across Britain introduce their summer timetables on 19 May.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said the changes will enable the introduction of 1,000 extra services per week.

Among the operators making improvements to their services are South Western Railway, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Northern, Scotrail and Transport for Wales.

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: 

"Passengers want nothing less than a smooth set of timetable changes that deliver tangible improvements.

"They paid a hefty price a year ago for a poorly manged set of major timetable changes. To regain the confidence of passengers, the rail industry must pull out all the stops to ensure these improvements deliver more punctual and reliable services.

"Passengers will expect someone to be placed in charge of major timetable changes in future, to ensure robust oversight and with the power to hit the stop button when something is not going to work."

The RDG insisted the industry has learned lessons from May 2018, adding that train companies and Network Rail have worked together to ensure changes are only being made where there is a "high confidence" that the necessary infrastructure, rolling stock and staffing plans are ready.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: 

"Train companies and Network Rail are focused on maintaining reliability as we deliver the step change in services people want and the country needs.

"We know that running more services cannot come at the expense of running a punctual railway.

"Introducing 1,000 more services a week to meet demand on a congested network poses a significant challenge but we are working together to ensure improvements are introduced with the absolute minimum of disruption."

The launch of new timetables in May last year led to weeks of chaos on large parts of the railway, with the number of trains cancelled each day by GTR and Northern reaching up to 470 and 310 respectively.

A series of failures were blamed for causing the problems, including Network Rail's delayed electrification projects in the North and late approval of the new timetables, poor planning by train operators and the decision by transport ministers to phase in the introduction of new GTR services.

GTR chief executive Charles Horton announced his resignation in the wake of the disruption.

An investigation into the timetable changes by the Office of Rail and Road found there was a "lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities" and said "nobody took charge".