Train shame: Reports of timetable chaos costing money, time and health

The timetable chaos that has led to huge disruption on Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway has had a negative impact on the finances, work and family lives of those who reported being affected, according to a Which? survey.

On 20 May, Northern Trains and GTR, which operates Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express, introduced new train timetables. Following the implementation, thousands of trains have been delayed or cancelled, and in many cases passengers have been left stranded on platforms.

In a survey conducted this week, three in five respondents affected by the timetable changes said they have had a negative impact on both their work (61%) and family life (61%), with nearly four in 10 (38%) also saying it had a negative impact on their health.

Close to one in two (49%) of respondents affected by the chaos said it has had an adverse effect on their finances. However, despite the ongoing disruption, 72% of respondents affected by the disruption said they had not been informed on the train or at the platform about any compensation they may be entitled to receive.

Under Delay Repay, the industry scheme that both Northern and GTR are signed up to, compensation is available for delays or cancellations, with the amount passengers are entitled to varying according to the length of delay.

Which? is calling for all passengers who have paid for their ticket through an electronic method of payment to be refunded automatically.

While the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has indicated a compensation package is being prepared for passengers, there is still not enough detail on what this will look like in practice.

Though the level of disruption appears to come as a surprise to the industry and Government, nine in ten (89%) respondents affected by the disruption believed operators should have anticipated teething issues and had a process in place to automatically compensate delayed passengers.

The survey also showed that almost two in three (65%) respondents troubled by the delays did not believe that they were adequately consulted about the timetable changes, and 85% said that the Government should do more to hold train companies to account for the failures.

Which? is encouraging passengers who have had to fork out for reasonable additional losses as a result of an operators failure to provide the service with reasonable care and skill, to claim compensation for this under the Consumer Rights Act.

With more timetable changes at the end of the year, the rail sector must provide assurances to passengers that this chronic disruption won’t be repeated.

Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, said:

“From start to finish, these timetable changes have proved to be a complete fiasco. The changes have resulted in chaos for passengers, many of whom are finding it a real struggle to get to work on time or back home to their families in the evening.

“Our research shows that passengers believe the consultation was inadequate, the delivery was bungled and the approach to compensation has been absolutely woeful.

“The Government needs to urgently sort out this farce. If they are to have any hope of restoring the faith of passengers, the compensation process should be immediate and automatic.”

Which? asked commuters affected by the timetable chaos for their views on the situation.


Abby – Thameslink

“Since the new timetable I have been late to work nearly every morning. This means I have to make up the extra time at the end of the day. With the delays and cancellations in the evening I have missed my son’s bedtime every night for two weeks (apart from one night).

“I am six and a half months pregnant and have found the overcrowding very distressing. When I can get near a seat, a fellow passenger does offer one to me but sometimes I’m stuck in the doorway and there’s no way to get to the seat area. Yesterday morning I chose to miss a train as it was too crowded and then the next two trains were cancelled or delayed.

“I also have to consider finishing work early for my maternity leave as my commute has doubled in time and is starting to take its toll. I don’t want to finish work earlier as this has huge financial implications on my family. This level of service wouldn’t be acceptable in any other business”.

Anthony – Northern

“Before the timetable changes my morning train was 7.29, but it has now become 6.55 or 7.55. However, the 7.55 isn’t reliable enough to get me into work in Manchester on time for 9. My 17.20 train has now become either 16.40 or 17.40. Factoring in a 17.00 finish and a 50 minute commute, the 17.40 is far too late and deprives me of the chance to see my four-month-old daughter prior to her bedtime.

“While Northern’s Delay Repay scheme may reimburse the occasional peanut here and there, there are various immeasurable costs which they are forcing upon people due to this shambolic franchise.”


Notes to eds


  1. Research note: YouGov conducted 2,003 online interviews with a nationally representative sample of respondents aged 18+ in Great Britain. Interviews took place between the 12th and 13th June 2018. Of those surveyed 150 responded to say they were affected by the delays caused by the Northern Trains and Govia Thameslink Railway timetable changes in May 2018.
  2. Delay Repay – Compensation for delays of 15 minutes or longer is available on Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express. Compensation is available for delays of 30 minutes or longer on Northern.
  3. Automatic compensation – Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Northern – have demonstrated that auto-compensation works to improve the system for customers. Yet there is room for improvement as eligibility for auto-compensation varies, risking further confusion or limiting consumer choice in the ticketing market. For example, auto-compensation only applies:

    For smart card holders– (Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern, Gatwick Express)

    Advanced tickets booked through website or app – (Northern)

  1. As well as Delay Repay, passengers can make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act for a ‘consequential loss’, which is the phrase for additional losses beyond the cost of a ticket – such as taxi fares or hotel bookings – which people have to fork out for when services are disrupted. Passengers can make a claim here:

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