Transport policy and railway timetabling: taking the connection seriously


J Tyler

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail


The author's work on strategic timetable planning for Britain’s railway that was reported at ETC in 2003 has continued in association with the railway industry. This paper will discuss further technical studies and the response to them, including novel approaches to auditing timetables and proposals to resolve the problem of limited capacity on the East Coast Main Line. It will however primarily address policy and institutional issues. These include * the status of the timetable in public perceptions of the quality of the service offer; * the economic and social consequences of uneven standards across the network; * interactions between timetabling, frequency and fares; * coordination between modes, including arguments for selective substitution of buses for trains; * recent decisions of the Office of Rail Regulation in the light of its statutory duties; * the tension between those decisions and the franchise system; * the impact of operational fragmentation on timetable planning; * the challenge of how to present timetables more intelligibly; * the role of the timetable in planning infrastructure development; and * comparisons between regulatory processes in Britain and mainland Europe. The case for creating an Integrated Timetable Authority will be assessed. If such a body were deemed necessary primary legislation would be required, and for that event intermediate stages will be suggested. The discussion will also take a longer perspective: in the context of the sustainability imperative and changing expectations of consumption and mobility it is difficult to forecast both total volumes of transport demand (passenger and freight) and their modal distribution, but the paper will attempt some thoughts on the contribution of timetable research and design to scenario-planning and the determination of spending priorities for enhanced and more equal accessibility by public transport. An agenda for future studies will be set out, including the need for deeper knowledge of the effect different timetabling concepts have on attitudes toward public transport in various countries. A subsidiary theme of the paper will be the poor public understanding of how designing a timetable is both technically complex and yet strongly expressive of distinct philosophies of the purpose of the railway. Timetabling matters !


Permission to publish abstract given by AET.