Manchester Piccadilly cancellations (Photo Tony Miles)

UK: Train operators need to introduce a more passenger-friendly and transparent ways of working when making late changes to services, according to industry regulator the Office of Rail & Road.

Currently ‘pre-cancellations’ made via a process known as ‘p-coding’ can be confirmed up to 22.00 the previous evening and are not included in the timetables that performance statistics are measured against.

ORR points out that this could mean that a train which a passenger expected to catch when they went to bed could disappear from the timetable by the time they leave for the station the next morning .

Historically, such changes have been made to support the introduction of emergency timetables when poor weather or infrastructure damage has required a wholesale change to train service on a route, with service performance then measured against the published emergency timetable.

However, the regulator has found that over the last year this mechanism has been used differently, with late changes made to timetables when insufficient staff or no appropriate trains are available.

ORR says this is an inappropriate application of the Network Code’s provisions on emergency timetables, and as such it has written to all train companies telling them to stop using this approach and to ask Network Rail to co-ordinate the industry to come up with a better way of managing such disruption.

Until this takes full effect, ORR requires all train companies to supply specific data on any ‘resource availability pre-cancellations’, which it will publish alongside official statistics. The industry has also been asked to share any positive passenger information practices that may have emerged during the use of the technique.

‘We need all train companies and Network Rail to come up with a more passenger-friendly method of making late changes’, said Feras Alshaker, Director, Planning & Performance at ORR. ‘While this does not fix the performance problems themselves, it will support better passenger information while ensuring that the industry statistics remain a transparent and accurate representation of the service provided.’