Grayling under fire over timetable fiasco
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling should take responsibility for the failings of the new Govia Thameslink Railway timetables introduced on May 20, the London Assembly says.
In a letter to Grayling seen by RAIL, London Assembly Transport Committee Chairman Caroline Pidgeon outlined a number of issues surrounding the introduction of the new timetables, including the fact that some were approved just days before the switchover date.
“It seems patently obvious that there must have been a point at which GTR and other operators simply wouldn’t have enough time to prepare their train diagrams and work schedules, and then to roster their drivers,” she wrote.
Pidgeon also called for the “reliance” on rest-day working for training purposes to be “urgently addressed”. She told Grayling: “We cannot think of another industry where workers have to carry out so much training outside their normal working hours. We heard that it could take six to nine months to learn a completely new route on that basis, which seems bound to cause problems for operators.”
Grayling’s department also came under fire as Pidgeon said the Class 700 trains were delivered late partly because the Department for Transport was unable to agree a deal for two years on how to finance the electric multiple units.
And she said that while a compensation package for those affected is welcomed, it should have been announced sooner.
“Your department needs to establish a much quicker process to set up compensation packages for any future episodes of major, prolonged disruption,” she told Grayling.
In addition, Pidgeon called on the Industry Readiness Board - made up of Network Rail, the Office of Rail and Road, train operating companies, Siemens, the Department for Transport and transport consultant Chris Green to manage the timetable change - to appoint external voices in order to “provide a useful challenge to the industry group” in the future.
She said the Assembly was surprised that Transport for London does not have a presence, despite the “effect that the timetable failure had on TfL’s own network” and the “high degree of interdependence of transport services in London”.
She added: “Setting up an Industry Readiness Board to manage this huge process may have been a good idea in theory, but it clearly failed in practice. Crucially, there was no single controlling mind who was willing or able to put the process on hold.”
Pidgeon also questioned the appointment of ORR Chairman Stephen Glaister to lead the inquiry into what went wrong, given the ORR was an “integral member” of the board. She pointed to a concern that members of the public may see the investigation as “little more than industry whitewash”.
Pidgeon concluded: “Passenger confidence in the rail industry has been shaken by this episode. The rail industry is complex and fragmented, and many parts of it have been at fault. But you, as Secretary of State, need to take responsibility for the failings of the industry here, and take steps to make sure it does not happen again.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is under fire from the London Assembly.