Rail timetable issues 2018


In February 2018, Network Rail announced that it was not able to produce finalised timetables 12 weeks in advance (this process is known as T-12). It announced plans to finalise timetables six weeks in advance and a plan to get the timetabling schedule back to normal. These issues left passengers unable to access journey information in the usual timescales during 2018 and part of 2019 (typically journey information is available 12 weeks in advance).

Breach of timetabling conditions in Network Rail’s network licence

On 27 July 2018, we wrote to Network Rail to inform them that we had concluded that Network Rail are in breach of the timetabling conditions in its network licence. This followed our investigation into Network Rai’s management of changes to the national rail timetable leading up to the May 2018 timetable change.

In our letter, we set out four immediate actions on Network Rail in response to the failings we identified. These had the objectives of increasing accountability, and providing us with greater assurance that Network Rail were managing the industry timetabling process as well as it can in the circumstances and building its timetabling resources and capability faster.

We have now reached a conclusion on the actions that we want Network Rail to take to remedy the licence breach. We set these out in our final order published on 30 January 2019.

On 25 July 2019 we wrote to Network Rail confirming that it had complied with the four actions we set it on 30 January 2019.

Better online passenger information when timetables are not yet confirmed

For a period in 2018-19 train timetables were being confirmed 6 weeks - rather than the standard 12 weeks - in advance of the date of travel. This means that key information that could influence a customer’s decision to buy a ticket, such as whether a train has been confirmed to operate on a given day or the availability of advance - often cheaper - tickets, may not have been available to customers at the time of purchase.

To resolve this we have worked with the industry to clarify what is required. In particular, that we expected that all sites will show information as least equal to that shown on the National Rail Enquiries  website – albeit not necessarily in exactly the same format. We do not think that it is reasonable for customers to have to check multiple websites to find fundamental information about the train services that they may be considering using.

In September 2018 we published a table that provided a summary of progress in this area following the May 2018 timetable change, specifically around the need to clearly advise customers when the train timetable is not yet confirmed. We are continuing to work with train companies and independent retailers to ensure that they understand and comply with the information provision requirements in their licences and, where relevant, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which provide clear protection for customers when purchasing tickets.

Background publications

Strand 1 publications

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Network Rail's development, management and delivery of the T-12 recovery plan. No current publications.

Strand 3 publications

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Root causes and lessons learned; investigation of how this issue arose, the industry's delivery against its obligations.

In addition to this investigation, at the request of the Government, ORR established an independent Inquiry into the wider factors that contributed to the failure to produce and implement a satisfactory operational timetable in May 2018. The Inquiry concluded and made recommendations based on a thorough assessment of the causes, consequences and management of the disruption in order to avoid a repeat of these problems for passengers, other users and railway staff in the future.