Rail passengers set to suffer once again in 2019, MPs warn

Commuters up and down the country should be prepared for "another difficult year" with more timetable changes and an increase in engineering work disrupting travel, a Commons report has warned.

The report published by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) highlights how troublesome 2018 was with failed introduction of a new timetable in May 2018 resulting in Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern not running 780 trains on average each day, equivalent to one in ten trains, and other services being significantly delayed and overcrowded.

But with further significant timetable changes planned, increased amounts of maintenance work and large improvement projects rolling out then commuters should expect more frustration, the committee claims.

MPs state how there is “not enough transparency” about the service improvements that passengers can expect and the levels of profit that rail companies can make. 

While work is needed to be done by Network Rail and train operating companies to ensure that infrastructure works are properly planned and scheduled and disruption is minimised.

A “sweeping review” to transform Britain’s railways was launched by Chris Grayling following the timetable change fiasco. Results of the review - led by independent chair Keith Williams – are set to be unveiled this year before the government publishes a white paper on the review’s recommendations in 2020.

But PAC warns that unless the DfT “considerably improves” its strategic management of the railway and transport more generally, passengers and taxpayers risk continuing to pay the price for the its failures.

Chair of the committee, Meg Hillier, says ministers must set out clear governance and accountability structures for the rail system, and move swiftly to provide other important information.

"2018 was a year from hell for many rail users and unless the Government gets a grip there is every chance that passengers will suffer in 2019 as well,” she added. “The 'root and branch' review will report later in 2019 and must then be implemented, so passengers have some time to wait for any improvements arising from its recommendations.”

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