Shadow transport secretary says rail timetable inquiry 'can have no credibility' with regulator chair as figurehead

Alexandra Rogers
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Grayling unveiled the inquiry on Monday (Source: Getty)

The shadow transport secretary has questioned the decision to appoint the chairman of the Office for Road and Rail (ORR) to conduct an inquiry into the major disruption caused by the recent timetable overhaul.

Andy McDonald said he believed there could be a potential conflict of interest in appointing Stephen Glaister to lead the inquiry into how the train timetable shakeup was able to cause so many delays, cancellations and overcrowded services since it came into force nearly three weeks ago.

The ORR is Network Rail's regulator.

McDonald told City A.M: "Putting the chair of Network Rail’s regulator in charge of an inquiry into the failings of both Network Rail and train companies is a bit like asking someone to mark their own homework. This inquiry can have no credibility and it’s yet another example of dreadful judgement by transport secretary Chris Grayling."

Grayling announced he was launching an inquiry into the chaos on Monday.

Addressing MPs in the Commons, Grayling lay the blame for the mess at the industry's door, accusing it of taking on a task it wasn't capable of doing.

Read more: Embattled Grayling launches inquiry into 'unacceptable' timetable chaos

He said delays in Network Rail delivering infrastructure upgrades had had "damaging consequences", requiring a "complete overhaul of logistics and planning" that the trains companies – Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Northern – struggled to handle.

Glaister, an emeritus professor of Transport at Imperial College London, was on the board of London Regional Transport for nine years before it handed over the reins to Transport for London. He was also an economic adviser to the rail regulator from 1993 to 2001, before becoming ORR chair in 2016.

An ORR spokesperson said: "The ORR, chaired by professor Glaister, has been asked to conduct this inquiry because of our expertise in this type of activity. One of our key roles is to investigate problems in the rail industry. ORR was already investigating the issue of the industry being unable to determine its timetables early enough – this inquiry simply widens that scope.

"One of the ORR’s principal activities in the past year has been investigating Network Rail’s five-year forward plans for their efficiency and effectiveness. ORR will issue its preliminary determination on this next week."

A DfT spokesperson said Glaister was "independent of government" and "the right person to review how this disruption happened".

“Passengers have faced unacceptable service levels and it is our priority ensure this is put right as soon as possible and passengers are compensated for the disruption," it said.

Read more: Another new rail timetable is on the cards after original plans go awry

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