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  • Changes to times more than 6 weeks prior to travel

    This is the industry commitment and process that makes timetables and ticket purchase possible prior to the date of travel, especially at weekends.

    The usual process means that timetables are agreed and buttoned down at least 12 weeks ahead of travel enabling train operators to open ticket reservations and bookings.

    This is changing to 6 weeks ahead of travel from the 20th May and will affect all UK train operators.


  • Informed Traveller

    What is ‘Informed Traveller’?

    This is the industry commitment and process that makes timetables and Advance tickets purchases possible ahead of travel, especially at weekends. The usual process means that timetables are agreed and buttoned down at least 12 weeks ahead of travel enabling train operators to open ticket reservations and bookings - particularly relevant for long-distance operators such as Virgin West Coast, Virgin East Coast, Greater Anglia, CrossCountry, Great Western, East Midlands Trains, Transpennine Express and Caledonian Sleeper

    Why are you moving from 12 to 6 weeks notice?

    There is significant change required in the timetable resulting from unprecedented investment, combined with rapid introduction of thousands of new services and short‐term changes to projects and plans, means that Network Rail's timetable planning resource is at more than full capacity.

    What’s caused this?

    The core timetable changes twice a year, in May and December. As a result of billions of pounds of investment in the rail network, new trains and new services, the May 2018 timetable change is one of the largest to date, needing the rescheduling of almost four million services - this is around 600% more than normal.

    The scale of this change is managed by the rail industry, which takes into account unexpected alterations to infrastructure projects the introduction of new trains and new services by some operators. A significant delay to the major electrification work between Manchester and Preston has meant that the Network Rail timetable planning teams have been unable to deliver the new timetable within the usual timescales

     

    Who's to blame?

    This isn't about blame but recognising the massive investment, transformation and change that the railway is in the midst of that will result in thousands of new trains and new services being introduced.

    How will passengers be affected?

    Most people (over 98%) won't be affected as they book within the 6 week period proposed. But in a small number of instances, passengers will not be able to book tickets until less than the usual 12 weeks before travel.

    In the small number of instances where it is only possible to book tickets less than 12 weeks in advance, train operators will still offer the same range of discounted tickets. If trains are cancelled, the normal compensation mechanisms will apply - if people have booked on a train that is cancelled, delayed, or where their reservation will not be honoured, or if they decide not to travel, they will be given a full refund. If people buy a ticket for a service affected by this change and then, at a later date advance tickets are made available which are at a cheaper fare, customers should book the advance fare for that service and then request a fee-free refund on their original ticket.

     

    How much will this change cost the industry?

    We're most concerned with doing the right thing for our customers. The industry has worked together to minimise the impact on passenger travel e.g by continuing to offer most advance purchase tickets 12 weeks out wherever possible.

     

    Who pays for this change?

    There are industry processes in place to deal with this situation and Network Rail stands ready to handle claims that may arise.

    Why can’t you increase your timetable resource to cope?

    Timetable planning is a skilled role that requires experience, railway knowledge and software expertise. It takes many months to train an individual and longer still to make them fully capable. All the resources available to the industry are already fully engaged.

    Shouldn’t you have seen this coming and increased resources to cope?

    The mammoth task of the summer 2018 timetable was predicted and vacancies filled and holidays adjusted to be able to cope with the extreme spike in planning this change would take. But a series of unforeseen changes and events has meant a level of change to timetables that cannot be accommodated in the normal timescales and an interim approach is needed.

     

    What are you doing to lessen the impact for passengers?

    Everything we can. We are telling people in advance if we think their service might change. As well as flagging services that could change to National Rail Enquiries.

    In the small number of instances where it is only possible to book tickets less than 12 weeks in advance, train operators will still offer the same range of discounted tickets. If trains are cancelled, the normal compensation mechanisms will apply - if people have booked on a train that is cancelled, delayed, or where their reservation will not be honoured, and they decide not to travel, they will be given a full refund. If people buy a ticket for a service affected by this change and then, at a later date advance tickets are made available which are at a cheaper fare, customers should book the advance fare for that service and then request a fee-free refund on their original ticket.

     

    How will we stop it happening again?

    The train industry are determined that it won't happen again. The Rail Delivery Group is already leading an industry review into this matter and will report their findings in the spring. We know this may inconvenience some passengers which is why, in the small number of instances where it is only possible to book tickets less than 12 weeks in advance, train operators will still offer the same range of discounted tickets. If trains are cancelled, the normal compensation mechanisms will apply - if people have booked on a train that is cancelled, delayed, or where their reservation will not be honoured, and they decide not to travel, they will be given a full refund. If people buy a ticket for a service affected by this change and then, at a later date advance tickets are made available which are at a cheaper fare, customers should book the advance fare for that service and then request a fee-free refund on their original ticket.

     

    You say the same range of cheap tickets will be available, will it be the same number of tickets?

    With timetables now only being confirmed six weeks ahead, the number of trains running could change and thus it's impossible to predict the volume of tickets available.

    Is this just a symptom of a fragmented industry?

    Not at all. There is significant change required in the timetable resulting from unprecedented investment, combined with rapid introduction of thousands of new services and short‐term changes to projects and plans, meaning that our timetable planning resource is at more than full capacity. All parts of the industry are working together and making decisions which put our customers at the fore.

    That's why, in the small number of instances where it is only possible to book tickets less than 12 weeks in advance, train operators will still offer the same range of discounted tickets. If trains are cancelled, the normal compensation mechanisms will apply - if people have booked on a train that is cancelled, delayed, or where their reservation will not be honoured, and they decide not to travel, they will be given a full refund. If people buy a ticket for a service affected by this change and then, at a later date advance tickets are made available which are at a cheaper fare, customers should book the advance fare for that service and then request a fee-free refund on their original ticket.

     

    How long has the train industry known about this?

    Network Rail has only just made the decision to make temporary changes to the availability of final timetables and it follows discussions with train operators. We wanted to let customers know as quickly as possible.

    The issues that brought us to this point have built up over a period of some months but there was still capacity in the system to cope until the unfortunate, but necessary, decision to postpone the new electric services on the Manchester to Preston route (via Bolton). This was due to a delay caused by the electrification of the route, where unknown mine workings severely affected mast foundations. It required the timetable across the north and beyond to be rewritten.

    Since that point, we have been discussing as an industry the best way to give rail customers the highest level of certainty about the service they can expect. We just reached the decision to move confirming timetables six weeks before travel, instead of the usual 12.

     

    When will you get back to a 12 week period?

    This temporary change will take affect from 20th May 2018 and be in place for a number of months. The industry will focus on returning to its 12 week planning horizons as soon as possible.

     

    What do you mean when you say this decision ‘follows discussions with’ the rest of the industry?

    Network Rail is responsible for time tabling and ultimately took this decision. The rest of the industry understood why it was necessary and, while the vast majority of passengers will not be affected, we are working together to minimise the impact.

    That's why, in the small number of instances where it is only possible to book tickets less than 12 weeks in advance, train operators will still offer the same range of discounted tickets. If trains are cancelled, the normal compensation mechanisms will apply - if people have booked on a train that is cancelled, delayed, or where their reservation will not be honoured, and they decide not to travel, they will be given a full refund. If people buy a ticket for a service affected by this change and then, at a later date advance tickets are made available which are at a cheaper fare, customers should book the advance fare for that service and then request a fee-free refund on their original ticket.

     

    What’s your advice for passengers?

    The rail industry is advising those passengers who book more than 6 weeks ahead to try and book as normal. Most tickets will be on sale as normal but some may not and passengers can either sign up for email alerts with their train company where possible or at National Rail Enquiries to receive emails about the latest availability of tickets.

     

    How can I claim any refunds?

    Customers should contact the company from which they bought their ticket to enquire for refunds.

    Arriva Trains Wales customers can visit our claims page

    How much will train companies get from Network Rail in compensation for this?

    There are industry processes in place to deal with this situation and Network Rail stands ready to handle claims that may arise.