Ministers vow sweeping rail review after 'nobody took charge' of timetable misery

Posted On: 
20th September 2018

Ministers have launched a sweeping review of Britain's railways after a report found "nobody took charge" amid major rail chaos earlier this year.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the review would leave 'no stone unturned'

Hundreds of trains were cancelled daily after a botched timetable shake-up got underway in May, with services in the north of England particularly badly affected.

A 183-page report by the Office of Rail and Road regulator blasted the Department for Transport and Network Rail's handling of the fiasco, and tore into rail firms Govia Thameslink and Northern.

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Warning of a "lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities", the report said: "The present industry arrangements do not support clarity of decision making: it was unclear who was responsible for what.

"Nobody took charge."

The findings have prompted the Department for Transport to draft in former British airways chief executive Keith Williams to lead a review being billed as "the most significant since privatisation".

With Labour vowing to renationalise rail services if it wins power, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said privatisation had "delivered huge benefits to passengers on Britain’s railways — doubling passenger journeys and bringing in billions of private investment".

But he said it was "clear that the structure we inherited is no longer fit to meet today’s challenges and cope with increasing customer demand".

He added: "It is vital that this review leaves no stone unturned and makes bold recommendations for the future.

"I am delighted that Keith Williams — who has significant experience leading businesses within the transport sector — has agreed to be the independent chair of this review.

"His expertise in driving customer service excellence will be incredibly valuable as we seek to reform the rail industry to become more passenger focused."

Labour savaged the plans for a fresh review, with Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald talking up his party's plan to bring the railways back into state hands.

"Rail passengers don’t need another review from the Tories to tell them that rail is broken," he said.

"Another review is meaningless in a year of rocketing fares, failing franchises and timetabling chaos.

“Another review lets Chris Grayling off the hook. The railways need a Labour government which will deliver public ownership of rail."

The Liberal Democrats meanwhile said the review was "desperately needed" and called for an "immediate fare freeze funded by the Government" while the probe gets to work.