November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Bosses from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Northern Rail faced questions from the Transport Select Committee yesterday over the chaos caused by a new timetable.
During the session, the executives admitted they were aware of the potential scale of the disruption before the timetables were officially implemented, according to the BBC.
Nick Brown and Charles Horton from GTR and David Brown and Rob Warnes from Northern revealed that driver rosters were drawn up three weeks before the timetable change, rather than the 12 weeks they believed they needed.
David Brown continued to point the blame at Network Rail for delays to projects to electrify Northern’s routes, saying the companies were not informed of the delays until 16 weeks before the timetables were due to begin, leaving them short on time for planning.
Brown claimed Northern had asked in January for the timetable roll-out to be postponed after it was made aware of the delay, but the request was denied by a “significant number of other players”.
Brown accepted that the firms will face criticism for ‘not shouting louder’ about their concerns and admitted their concerns had been flagged up to an industry readiness board but not the Department for Transport.
Further engineering delays in April meant the companies had to give additional training to 450 drivers, which eventually led to the cancellations seen at the start of the new timetable.
Horton, who announced last week that he would step down as CEO of GTR once a temporary timetable is in place, apologised again for the disruption experienced by passengers.
Network Rail’s head of system operations Jo Kaye said she believed “mitigations” the company was putting in place in the days leading up to the switch would be enough to avoid major disruption, but admitted it turned out to be wrong.
An official inquiry into what caused the disruption and whether anything could have been done to avoid it is ongoing.
The news comes as staff on Northern are in the midst of a 24-hour strike, with further walk-outs planned for Thursday and Saturday.