Rail regulator secures assurances to ease the pain for Avanti passengers

7 October 2022
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has gained assurances from train operator, Avanti West Coast that it will return to providing timetables at least 6 weeks in advance of travel.
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Avanti West Cpast

This will provide some comfort for passengers who have faced uncertainty in the past few months due to very short-term confirmation of timetables – in some cases as little as 48 hours ahead of travel for weekends.

In an attempt to improve reliability, Avanti introduced revised timetables in August. But this only led to passengers facing significant challenges with buying tickets and reserving seats. 

ORR challenged Avanti in August to provide a recovery plan for returning to providing timetable information to passengers in line with industry norms (currently 6-8 weeks ahead of travel). This initial plan was rejected by the regulator.

A revised plan has since been submitted and shows a substantially improving picture for weekday timetable information, a more gradual improvement for weekends, and positive plans for the Christmas period. 

The key enabler for delivering the improvements is additional resources brought into both the Avanti and Network Rail timetable planning teams, with Avanti drawing on consultancy support while the situation stabilises. 

Stephanie Tobyn, Director of Strategy, Policy and Reform at ORR said:

“We challenged Avanti under their licence condition with ORR that requires the provision of appropriate, accurate and timely information to passengers to plan and make their journeys.

“We believe their resulting plan is credible and appropriately ambitious given the interactions with planned engineering work and with the biannual industry-wide major timetable change in December. 

“We will continue to review Avanti’s progress on a weekly basis and work closely with Transport Focus who are monitoring the passenger experience of the reduced timetable.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. Passenger information licence conditions
  1. Timetables and ticket sales for the Christmas travel period are expected to open at 7 weeks out, but are dependent on formal confirmation from Network Rail.
  1. Railway timetables generally are still recovering from the pandemic. The industry aims to introduce a new timetable planning process which is unlikely to return to confirming the timetable 12 weeks in advance. Implementation of the new process will however require changes to the railway Network Code.

    Network Rail is responsible for coordinating and validating timetables for the national rail network. Each train and freight operating company develops the timetable they would like to run in their area, and Network Rail then coordinates all the different timetables to produce a single national rail timetable.

    It currently updates the timetable for the national rail network twice a year, in May and December. This allows train and freight operating companies a regular opportunity to make changes to their services – run more or new services, change the timing of their services, and/or change their routes.

    The “Informed Traveller” process then allows the long term timetable to be changed to accommodate special events and engineering works. Once agreed between operators and Network Rail the timetable is updated. These changes are currently being made at 6-8 weeks ahead of travel
  2. The Office of Rail and Road is the economic and safety regulator of Britain’s railway. ORR also holds National Highways to account for its performance and efficiency.
  3. Our passenger facing work derives from the licences we issue to train and station operators, including Network Rail for its managed stations, and from our powers and responsibilities under consumer and competition law.