ORR launches Independent Inquiry into May timetable disruption

13 June 2018

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today formally launched its Independent Inquiry into the recent and widespread timetable disruption suffered on the railway and published its Terms of Reference.

The introduction of a new system-wide timetable on 20 May was intended to deliver benefits from major investment in the rail network but instead resulted in extensive disruption, particularly for Northern and GTR passengers.

On 4 June, the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling asked ORR, as the independent rail regulator, to set up an inquiry headed by ORR Chair Professor Stephen Glaister CBE into the failed introduction of the new schedules.

ORR has now confirmed the Inquiry will:

  • identify factors that contributed to the failure to produce and introduce a satisfactory operational timetable
  • reach conclusions about managing risks created by major network changes
  • make recommendations to the industry and government before any future major network changes.

The Inquiry will focus on what actually took place when the timetable was introduced, compared to what should have happened. It will concentrate on the evidence of where there were differences, and the underlying causes.

It will examine the disruption experienced by passengers, especially on lines served by Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway.

In addition the Inquiry will look at how Network Rail and the train operators worked together, before and after introduction of the timetable; Network Rail’s role in delivering network enhancements; the Department for Transport’s own role in planning enhancements and franchises; and the industry’s readiness in preparing for timetable changes.

The Inquiry will have three phases: evidence-gathering, analysis, and the development of recommendations. An interim report will be published in September.

Professor Glaister said:

"A considerable amount of time was spent planning these changes so it is disappointing that the industry could not make the new timetable work.  ORR does not set or approve the railway timetable; we will therefore look at this issue independently and dispassionately.

"While I want the Inquiry to proceed at pace it is important to be thorough and impartial. We will collect evidence from a range of organisations, including passenger representatives such as Transport Focus, and be supported by an expert panel of external advisers.

"This advisory panel will also challenge whether the ORR’s own role, as regulator of Network Rail and of the train operating companies, has been properly assessed by the Inquiry."

The Inquiry will publish its initial findings in September with a final report by the end of the year. Both the interim and final reports, together with their evidence bases, will be published on ORR’s website.

Notes to editors

  1. The Office of Rail and Road is the UK’s rail regulator and strategic roads monitor for England. Follow us @railandroad.
  2. The Secretary of State for Transport announced on 4 June 2018 work to set up an inquiry by the independent Office of Rail and Road, chaired by Stephen Glaister, into the May timetable implementation. The Inquiry is being held under Section 51 of the Railways Act 2005.
  3. The Inquiry will invite contributions from a wide range of industry bodies and others responsible for operation of the railway and those representing the interests of passengers including Transport Focus and other rail users. Contributions are welcome to the Inquiry email address: timetable.inquiry@orr.gov.uk.
  4. The Inquiry is being conducted in addition to, and alongside, ORR’s existing monitoring and investigation activity that began in January 2018 looking into the compliance of Network Rail and the train operating companies with the terms of their licences.

    This investigation is specifically examining why final railway timetables were only being produced six weeks in advance, rather than the normal twelve weeks. It includes assessing the timeliness and accuracy of information provided to passengers by train operators in response to this disruption.