Rail (UK)

Regulator orders end to the inappropri­ate use of ‘P-coding’


The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has told the industry to end the inappropri­ate use of ‘pre-cancellati­ons’, where trains ‘disappear’ from timetables.

Rules allow any train that is to be cancelled before 2200 the previous night (for any reason) to be removed from the timetable for that day, by marking the service with code PG - known as ‘P-coding’.

It is intended to be used for large-scale issues such as severe weather or major infrastruc­ture damage, for the production of emergency timetables.

However, since the start of the rail dispute, it has been used by train operating companies (TOCs) when faced with shortages of train crew or stock, leading to record levels of cancellati­ons that are not recorded in official statistics.

Concerned by the high number of ‘pre-cancellati­ons’, the regulator says this is “inappropri­ate” because rather than being shown as ‘cancelled’, before and on the day, P-coded trains do not appear at all in public timetables, online journey planners, or real-time informatio­n feeds.

“This can mean that a train a passenger is expecting to catch, when they went to bed, disappears from the timetable by the time they leave for the station, unaware that it has been cancelled,” said ORR Director of Planning & Performanc­e Feras Alshaker.

Writing to all TOCs, Alshaker has told them to change how they record ‘pre-cancellati­ons’ and to introduce a more “passengerf­riendly and transparen­t way of working” when making late changes.

Because P-coded trains are excluded from the industry’s delay attributio­n process, it also means they do not appear in statistics.

This means the delay attributio­n process “does not fulfil its primary purpose” as it “does not produce an accurate dataset on which to base plans for industry performanc­e improvemen­t”, said Alshaker.

He wrote: “It is important that trust in the statistics, and therefore the industry, is not eroded.”

Telling TOCs to stop using P-codes outside of their intended purpose, the regulator has ordered TOCs to supply specific data on any “resource availabili­ty precancell­ations” until this takes full effect. The ORR will publish this data alongside official statistics in future, ensuring full public transparen­cy.

See also: pages 10-11.

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