See also:
CIO Profile: Transport for London's Steve Townsend

Train companies and station operators could face fines for not providing accurate and timely information about delays to passengers, thanks to a new industry code of practice.

Severe travel disruptions caused by adverse weather conditions and poor communication about problems to passengers have already prompted companies like Eurostar and the Eurotunnel to invest in their communications technology.

"Rail passengers in Britain today rightly expect to receive reliable information so that they can plan their journeys and make sensible decisions when services are disrupted.

"This is a fundamental requirement, not an optional 'add on'," said Richard Price, chief executive of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

Only one third of passengers think delays are handled well, the ORR said.

The new code of practice for improving passenger information sets out standards for the rail industry to invest in communications technology and staff training.

It also said that an initial message should be sent to customer-facing staff within 10 minutes of the control office being notified of a problem, with an update provided at least every 20 minutes if there is a major disruption.

The information should also be concise and jargon free, the code states.

Price said that to achieve the goal of providing appropriate, accurate and timely information for passengers, Network Rail needs to work together with all train companies and station operators.

Any organisations that consistently fail to meet the code's standards will have "action" taken against them by the regulator.

"If one side fails it can have a significant impact on passengers.

"Good performers have nothing to fear. This greater accountability will ensure that poor performers are not allowed to undermine the industry as a whole," Price said.

A spokesperson for ORR said that although details about the size of fines could not be provided, the financial penalties cannot exceed 10 percent of the relevant licence holder's turnover.

The new obligations will come into effect in February 2012.