We do everything we can to avoid delays. But when they happen, we provide clear, useful and up-to-date information to travellers
Train delays can be very inconvenient and we know that the information we provide needs to help passengers get to where they need to go, safely and quickly.
When an incident does happen, we work with the train companies to get essential travel information out to passengers. This page explains how we approach each step to resolve the issue and keep passengers and potential travellers informed.
How we identify an incident
An incident can be many things, from a trespasser or a buckled rail to a fallen tree blocking a line. Reports come from several sources: our maintenance teams, train crew, platform staff or members of the public. Our remote monitoring systems on the rail network also alert us to issues.
How we assess the incident
Employees of Network Rail and/or the train company assess how likely it is that the incident will affect train services.
If delays are expected, we appoint a lead operations controller at a regional control centre, and another manager to look after the on-site requirements.
We then issue a holding message with the location, lines affected and immediate advice for travellers to communication channels, including station announcers, the National Rail website, train crews and train company customer service teams.
If this incident is likely to have a severe impact on passengers, we trigger a higher level of communication.
How we fix the issue
The responsible teams agree a plan with key milestones and timings, which looks something like this:
- Milestone 1: Engineers arrive on site - 16:00
- Milestone 2: Problem located and identified - 16:15
- Milestone 3: Equipment is repaired or replaced - 16:40
- Milestone 4: Maintenance crew are clear of the railway - 16:50
We update this as work progresses.
How we share information with passengers
Our core message contains three important pieces of information:
- The problem – the details of the incident or infrastructure problem
- The impact – the impact on trains and contingency plans
- The advice – alternative routes or transport options
This is sent out to the passenger communication channels for issuing to travellers and we aim to review this message every 20 minutes.
How we get trains back on schedule
We have contingency plans in place with all train companies so we can quickly alter timetables. Sometimes, we have no option but to cancel some trains and change the stopping patterns of others to reduce the time it takes to get everything back on schedule.
Even after we’ve resolved the problem, trains might be disrupted for several hours because much of the rail network runs close to capacity, so there’s very little opportunity to squeeze trains closer together and make up time.
Delays also leave trains and train crew in the wrong place at the wrong time, so return and onward journeys can be affected too.