Govia Thameslink fined record £5m for new timetable chaos

March 14, 2019

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) says it is "disappointed" by a record £5m fine for failing passengers during the chaotic introduction of a new timetable last May.

Hundreds of Thameslink and Great Northern services were cancelled each day for eight weeks while surviving trains also faced severe disruption as the new regime came in and the company tried to manage demand.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said not only did the company fail to communicate with passengers, its own internal staff communication was inadequate too.

The regulator's deputy director, Stephanie Tobyn, said: "The disruption experienced by many passengers as a result of the May timetable introduction was awful.

"When disruption happens, poor quality information makes an already difficult and frustrating situation worse.

"The exceptional circumstances that followed the introduction of the timetable meant that providing perfect advance information for passengers was from the outset an impossible task and GTR's overriding focus was on providing as much capacity as it could to meet customer demand.

"However persistent and prolonged failures in information provision meant that passengers couldn't benefit from the operational improvement it was trying to make."

Network Rail, the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and industry body the Rail Delivery Group all faced sharp criticism at the time.

GTR's chief executive, Patrick Verwer, said of the report's findings: "We are disappointed at today's fine imposed by the Office of Rail and Road.

"We are making significant improvements to information for passengers.

"These include upgrades to station screens, issuing frontline staff with new smartphones loaded with real-time service information, and we have volunteer teams on stand-by to help passengers during disruption.

"Further improvements in customer information are planned.

"The severe disruption following last May's timetable introduction was due to industry-wide factors and we are sorry for the serious effect this had on our passengers.

"GTR has paid £18m in passenger compensation and is investing a further £15m in improvements for passengers for its part in the timetable issues."

A separate inquiry by the ORR said Northern passengers were failed for the first two weeks of the timetable change but ruled the firm took reasonable steps subsequently to rectify the disruption.

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