BOSSES at the Great Western Railway have been slammed for not giving passengers enough warning when delays are expected.

Transport Focus, the watchdog for transport passengers and road users in the UK, has raised a number of concerns following the train company’s failure to inform passengers of disruptions due to engineering works.

In a letter penned in November to Mark Hopwood, the managing director of the GWR, Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said that he had become “increasingly concerned about the impact on passengers of late notice requests for engineering access and consequential non compliance with Informed Traveller T-12 obligations”.

Train operators are required to publish information about train services and to open reservations nine weeks ahead of the date of travel. This is the so-called 'T-9' obligation.

In order to fulfil this obligation, train operators depend on Network Rail to release confirmed timetables to them at least twelve weeks before any particular departure - the 'Informed Traveller Requirement', also known as 'T-12'.

Concerns were also raised over the GWR releasing its Christmas timetable to late and apparent discrepancies in the company’s journey planner.

Mr Smith wrote: “As you know, passengers are encouraged to assume that information in journey planners is correct at T-12. If it is not, people will make plans based on incorrect information, potentially causing subsequent inconvenience and implications for welfare, if for example travelling at night.”

Shockingly, he added: “In some cases, the industry is allowing passengers to buy tickets on trains that it knows cannot run, and with no warning. This is not acceptable.”

A particular bone of contention was the widespread delays that occurred as a result of engineering work on the Reading to Swindon route on October 14 and 15.

Mr Smith said: “While welcoming that goodwill gestures are now being made, passengers were initially told that they could not claim because the changes were ‘timetabled’.”

He said compensation in this case is “an entitlement and not a gesture of goodwill”.

Mr Hopwood replied to Mr Smith’s letter on Monday.

Acknowledging the problems caused in late October, he said: “The additional weekend of work was needed to test the new overhead electrification equipment between Maidenhead and Reading.

“Under normal circumstances, this additional work would have gone into the normal planning process, however on this occasion the benefits of getting the work done outweighed the negative impact.”

He claimed that “getting back to a T12 position as quickly as possible” was of the utmost importance and vowed to “do all we can to minimise the inconvenience, to maximise information flow and to promote our full ticket range”.

“For future improvement work, we will also be liaising closely with other online retail outlets to help them improve their contact with our customers.

Much of the customer confusion on October 14 and 15 was where customers purchased through other online retail outlets and may not have seen the email warnings sent.

“We agree that changes to the published timetable must be communicated to passengers and we will work to improve this on our channels, and with partners, in the future.”