But in effect there's nothing new there. We (including me personally in two successive posts) spent years - 5 in my case - reducing staff to cut costs in train planning in BR days. The essential difference perhaps was that every time we looked at potential cost savings we considered what work we could shed and told those seeking the cuts what would have to go in order to make the cuts. But the cost saving aspects will have in many respects little to do with the problems created by centralising train planning to a non-railway location (in traditional terms) on NR which is also poorly situated when it comes to recruiting the necessary skills from operating companies.
Equally NR would have been failing in their management role if they did not make clear to the ORR that if cuts were made certain consequences would result. It is hardly a difficult task to estimate train planning workloads within reasonable limits when you know the nature of the tasks and the abilities needed to perform them plus whatever the various IT systems can, or can't deliver. Workload troughs and peaks have hardly changed as almost all are calendar driven and can be be assessed well in advance of planning what to do with your workforce, permitting leave, planning training and so on. If the ORR accepted the delays in process which would result then it is down to them and they should be involved in any inquiry into the recent failings. But equally it is 100% in NR's hands to say what their response was to any proposed cuts and what impact they would have on timely completion of the various tasks.
Being tasked to save money is one thing - doing it in an effective way which does not damage processes unless those processes are revised is something very different. For example if processing the annual timetable changes takes longer because there are fewer staff doing it then you alter the schedule for the overall process by allowing extra time for that part of it - the amount of work doesn't really vary even if extra trains are being added especially extra trains running on a reasonably fixed pattern/interval service. The amount of work for special traffic alterations is usually remarkably consistent and we know that in some cases - Christmas/New Year now being the most obvious example - that the time available to do the work is extremely limited therefore it needs extra people to do it in a timely manner, which is great as long as it doesn't clash with any other workload peaks (which is quite likely with December TT change date - and is the main reason I objected to the shift to a December change date when it was discussed at the European Timetable Conference).
Obviously. But the point is made extensively in the articles (not just one) that there was an enormous disconnect between what the ORR believed was NR's task and what the DfT believed it was going to be. Just how much NR protested, acceded or were bludgeoned between the two, is not available to public scrutiny, as yet. A key point made in the final article is the very strange situation of HMG appointing the very person who ordered the cuts in the first place, to now undertake an official enquiry into the causes. The inference is that an objective outcome is questionable.
I think you, Nigel Harris, wannabe MP Christian Wolmar and Philip Haigh, would have a most interesting discussion.