SWIFT reforms are required to prevent train future timetable chaos in December and next year in Scotland and across the UK, according to MPs.

In a scathing report about timetable changes in May, the Transport Select Committee said the "chaotic rollout" of alterations to services across the country in May should be the catalyst for "genuine change" for people who rely on the railways.

And it endorsed a "cautious" approach to timetable changes being brought in by train operators including ScotRail, Virgin Trains Westcoast and London North Eastern Railway.

The committee, who published their report today say: "The immediate priority must be establishing effective governance and decision-making structures to oversee the implementation of the planned timetable change in December 2018 and the two scheduled for 2019.

"More substantial changes currently planned for 2019 should only go ahead when the industry is confident they can be delivered effectively. The integrity of the system and passengers’ needs for reliable services must ultimately take precedence over any political and commercial interests in delivering additional capacity quickly."


National rail timetabling ultimately needed "genuinely independent" oversight, independent of Network Rail to avoid being affected by commercial and political pressure, said the committee.

However the report also says that the commiteee were content in the short term that the independent system operator could be Andrew Haines, the chief executive of the under fire Network Rail. But the MPs said if he is to assume responsibility the Secretary of State must make clear the extent of Mr Haines’ decision-making power over whether and when the next timetable change goes ahead.

The report arrives a matter of days after it emerged the rail regulator launched action against Network Rail, the nationalised body that manages the infrastructure, such as the tracks and the signals, requiring improvements over performance across the UK or face fines after the punctuality and reliability of Britain’s train services slumped this summer.

Network Rail Scotland was also being probed by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) as it emerged that it is responsible for two in three of the delays which has seen ScotRail forced to settle 65,000 successful claims from passengers in nine months.


The MPs said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was not fully informed of the serious problems caused by the May changes, but they added it was not reasonable for him to absolve himself of all responsibility.

Mr Grayling had the ultimate authority to judge trade-offs between competing commercial interest and he should have been more proactive, said the report.

The committee said passengers most affected by the delays and cancellations should receive a discount on 2019 tickets.

Last week's announcement that rail fares will increase by an average of 3.1% added "insult to passengers' injury", said Lilian Greenwood, who chairs the committee.

All passengers affected by the May timetabling disruption were badly let down by the system, but people with sensory, mobility and other impairments were disproportionately affected, said the report, adding: "This is clearly unacceptable. As a matter of urgency industry and the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) must take steps to ensure such a situation does not arise again."

It added: "The governance and decision-making structures in place for the May 2018 national rail timetabling change were not fit for purpose. They would not have been used for any major project in any sector anywhere in the world."

Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "This devastating report lays the blame clearly on the disastrous fragmentation of our railways and with Chris Grayling.

"He was asleep at the wheel of a broken, fragmented, over-complicated system that is solely of his party's creation. He has presided over a collective systemic failure and passengers deserve nothing less than his resignation."

The report came as ScotRail was criticised for saying it was due to end the Kids Go Free scheme in the new year.

ScotRai, run by Dutch company Abellio, will now charge £1 for each child from January, but they say the fare will be available on more services.

Labour are calling on the train company to "give our children the gift of free rail travel for another year this Christmas".

Transport workers' union TSSA say a parent travelling once a week with two children would be £100-a-year worse off.

The union has launched a petition to bring ScotRail back in to the public ownership of the Scottish people demanding money made in rail in Scotland should be reinvested in Scotland.