Govia Thameslink given £5 million fine for May 2018 timetable chaos

Govia Thameslink has been fined £5 million for the May timetable chaos. Picture: DANNY LOO.

Govia Thameslink has been fined £5 million for the May timetable chaos. Picture: DANNY LOO. - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Govia Thameslink has been fined £5 million by the rail regulator over the chaos caused by the introduction of the May timetable.

The Office of Rail and Road imposed the fine after it found that GTR “failed to provide appropriate, accurate and timely information to passengers following the introduction of a new timetable last May”.

An investigation – launched in October last year – has produced some damning findings, including ‘ghost trains’ arriving at stations with passengers and staff unaware of their arrival, services being removed from the timetable without passengers being told and trains being removed or cancelled on a daily basis.

The findings will come as no surprise to passengers using Great Northern and Thameslink services in Hertfordshire and beyond, whose calls for a January price freeze on fares fell on deaf ears.

“The disruption experienced by many passengers as a result of the May timetable introduction was awful,” said Stephanie Tobyn, deputy director of consumers at ORR.

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“When disruption happens, poor quality information makes an already difficult and frustrating situation worse.

“The exceptional circumstances that followed the introduction of the timetable meant that providing perfect advance information for passengers was from the outset an impossible task and GTR’s overriding focus was on providing as much capacity as it could to meet customer demand.

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“However persistent and prolonged failures in information provision meant that passengers couldn’t benefit from the operational improvement it was trying to make.”

In response, GTR chief executive officer Patrick Verwer said: “We are disappointed at today’s fine imposed by the Office of Rail and Road.

“We are making significant improvements to information for passengers. These include upgrades to station screens, issuing frontline staff with new smartphones loaded with real-time service information, and we have volunteer teams on standby to help passengers during disruption. Further improvements in customer information are planned.

“The severe disruption following last May’s timetable introduction was due to industry-wide factors and we are sorry for the serious effect this had on our passengers.

“GTR has paid £18m in passenger compensation and is investing a further £15m in improvements for passengers for its part in the timetable issues.”

GTR has 21 days to respond to the fine.

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