Network Rail faces £3m fine over timetabling system

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Network Rail faces a £3m penalty after it breached its licence for failing to run an effective and efficient timetabling process for Britain’s rail network, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) announced today.

According to the ORR, the proposed financial penalty follows confirmation in September 2010 that Network Rail had breached its licence after problems arose from the introduction of the integrated train planning system (ITPS) for the May 2010 timetable.

System faults are said to have left some operators temporarily unable to publish information or take bookings and reservations. ORR says freight and passenger charter operators were some of the hardest hit as very late confirmation of services left them unable to plan their businesses properly, and facing revenue losses because of customer cancellations.

The regulator’s investigation into the introduction of ITPS found that, while Network Rail was right to replace old and inefficient timetabling systems and processes, its implementation of the new system failed to consider properly, mitigate and communicate the risks of initial problems affecting operators and passengers.

Bill Emery, ORR chief executive, said: ‘Network Rail was right to replace old and inefficient timetabling systems and processes, and in time its new integrated train planning system should bring longer-term benefits to the industry.

‘But its introduction earlier this year created significant disruption for operators and passengers. The company has since taken positive steps to resolve problems that should have been avoided and is developing plans to compensate operators.

‘However, and not for the first time, Network Rail has breached its licence for failing to give sufficient emphasis to the needs of its customers. This substantial penalty sends a very clear message that the company must quickly take steps to ensure its processes prioritise its customers.

‘It is imperative that Network Rail is fully aware of, and guided by, the interests of its customers in everything it does. We expect Network Rail to take forward the lessons it has learnt from this project and build on its progress in putting customers and rail users at the heart of its business.’