Rail passengers have suffered unacceptable levels of disruption in 2018. The failed introduction of a new timetable in May 2018 resulted in Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern not running 780 trains on average each day, equivalent to one in ten trains, and other services being significantly delayed and overcrowded. 2019 looks to be another difficult year for both passengers and the rail industry, with further significant timetable changes planned, increased amounts of maintenance work and large improvement projects rolling out.
The Department for Transport’s management of this franchise and the railway continues to be characterised by cost overruns, project delays and disruption. There is not enough transparency about the service improvements that passengers can expect and the levels of profit that rail companies can make. The Department still has a way to go to achieve the joint working needed between Network Rail and train operating companies to ensure that infrastructure works are properly planned and scheduled and disruption is minimised. Passengers with disabilities continue to be let down by the Department and the rail industry. It is not good enough that the Department does not know if passengers with disabilities are getting the support they need. Outside of rail, Parliament and the public still require clarity about how some vital road investment projects will now be funded, given Treasury’s decision to stop PF2. Unless the Department considerably improves its strategic management of the railway and transport more generally, passengers and taxpayers risk continuing to pay the price for the Department’s failures.
Published: 27 February 2019