Transport Secretary Chris Grayling slams ‘wholly unsatisfactory’ rail timetable

The transport secretary said the industry had “failed the passengers it serves” after a second week of travel chaos on Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) services.

Some 14% of Northern services were cancelled on Tuesday and 25% were at least five minutes late, while GTR services saw 10% of trains cancelled and 14% suffering delays.

“We were aware that there might be some disruption in the early days of any new timetable change of this size, but the scale of the problem has far outstripped any expectation,” Mr Grayling said.

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While timetables are updated twice a year, the latest alteration – which came into operation this month – included seven times as many changes than usual, resulting in 400 new daily services.

It was lauded by GTR as the “UK’s biggest ever timetable change” and was implemented in a bid to make existing services more reliable.

But Mr Grayling said the new timetable had been finalised too late to allow for “adequate logistical planning”, while a failure to power lines in Bolton and Preston in time had delayed the introduction of electric trains.

Rachel Maskell, Labour’s Shadow Rail Minister insisted blame laid with the transport secretary.

She said: “The buck stops with him. It was him who awarded contracts to incompetent train companies and it was him who propped up a failed and unpopular system of rail privatisation.

“The next Labour government will put in place a new rail service, publicly owned and therefore better integrated, so that rail is run in the interests of the public.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Late timetables have certainly not helped the recent events but there are many other factors across the industry involved and we are looking at understanding the root cause so that future changes can be implemented more smoothly”.

Network Rail is responsible for coordinating timetables to make sure there are no clashes between different providers’ services – the process that Mr Grayling said happened too late.

He also said that changes would have to be made to the way timetables are made.

GTR declined to comment on Mr Grayling’s statements, but a spokesman said the firm was sorry to customers for any disruption, which it said would ease over the coming month.

They added: “We are working on a recovery plan with rail industry partners. Meanwhile, as late notice changes continue to be made, we ask passengers to check train times on the day of travel.”


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