Press releases

Regulator calls for improvements in passenger information for rail replacement buses

30 November 2023
The Office of Rail and Road has asked train operators and Network Rail to address the concerns raised in its report, published today, regarding the consistency and usefulness of passenger information of rail replacement services when there are planned engineering works.
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Rail replacement bus stop

The rail regulator concluded that better information needs to be provided about planned rail replacement services, adding that there were too many places where passengers could be confused by where to go and what to do.

ORR’s field study found some areas of good practice, most notably that passengers buying tickets online before travel are told when rail replacement services will be in use for planned engineering work. However, several areas of concern were highlighted where improvements are needed.  These include:

  • Improving the quality of advance information provided online; including by ensuring better consistency of information, and by making it clearer which part of the route will have a train service and which will be operated by a rail replacement service.
  • Ensuring that rail replacement services are shown in live departure information at stations and online so that it is clear it is possible to travel to a destination even though trains are not running. 
  • Improving information provided about stations on National Rail Enquiries, including providing information about engineering works on station pages and links to onward travel posters, that include bus-stop maps and local information.
  • Ensuring that rail replacement services display their destination on the bus, and that passengers are informed when a rail replacement service is approaching a stop.

ORR has also invited the industry to work together to explore how to make real time bus location data available to passengers.

The regulator has already provided feedback to operators on the findings from the journeys made in the field study. ORR is discussing the broader findings with the Rail Delivery Group Customer Information Group, which includes Network Rail and train operators.

ORR expects train operators and Network Rail to feed back on how they are addressing the issues raised in the report in spring 2024. The regulator also expects an improved experience for passengers before carrying out further field work next summer.

Stephanie Tobyn, ORR’s director of strategy, policy and reform, said:

Planning and making a journey on a planned rail replacement bus service should be as straightforward as when travelling by train, however our study showed this is not always the case.

Operators must think more about their passengers, and not leave them in the dark because of a lack of clear and consistent information, especially now that the passenger experience of information on regular buses is much better than it used to be.

Industry must work harder to ensure that the frustration and worry for passengers who had intended to travel by rail is not exacerbated.

Notes to editors

  1. Passenger information when rail replacement services are in use
  2. Train operators have committed to delivering a set of customer information pledges across all areas of a passenger journey, including when rail replacement services are in use. ORR has accepted these pledges as the regulated Code of Practice required under the Passenger Information licence condition.