Rail industry failed passengers over new timetable, Transport Secretary says

The rail industry has "failed the passengers it serves" following the implementation of a new timetable, the Transport Secretary said.

There have been "wholly unsatisfactory levels of disruption" on Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) services since departure times were rescheduled on May 20, according to Chris Grayling.

In two letters to MPs, Mr Grayling described how he is "frustrated" that what should have been a "good news story" about the introduction of new services and expanded capacity has had "such a poor start".

Former Tory minister Grant Shapps said the Great Northern Railway service through his Welwyn Hatfield constituency in Hertfordshire was "bloody unacceptable".

He told Channel 4 News he had written to Mr Grayling, asking him to strip the operator of its franchise immediately because "they are not fit to run a railway".

He said: "What they have done with this new timetable is stripped away the services so they now take much longer to travel from Welwyn Garden City into London.

"They have taken away the daytime services, so they have gone from three to two an hour, and then they can't even run that timetable with this reduced, poorer service, on time or indeed at all.

"They absolutely don't deserve to be running this railway line and I'm calling for the Transport Secretary to remove their franchise immediately instead of waiting."

Commuters are suffering their second week of travel chaos with the new timetable.

On Tuesday some 14% of Northern services were cancelled, with a further 25% at least five minutes late.

GTR saw 10% of trains cancelled and 14% delayed.

The rail timetable is updated twice a year, but the latest update has seven times more changes than normal due to investment and a bid to make existing services more reliable.

Chris Grayling
Chris Grayling

Mr Grayling wrote: "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."

The new timetable was finalised "much too late to permit adequate logistical planning" due to delayed Network Rail infrastructure works, Mr Grayling stated.

In relation to Northern routes, the minister explained that the failure to deliver electrification to Bolton and Preston in time for the new timetable had delayed the introduction of new electric trains.

This meant there was a shortage of trains to cover the planned increase in services.

He added that the way Network Rail creates timetables is "simply unacceptable".

Mr Grayling disclosed that he has ordered Network Rail, Northern and GTR to use "whatever resources they need" to resolve the situation.

A Network Rail spokesman 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."