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Grayling blasts timetable changes, says industry ‘failed passengers’

The rail industry has “collectively failed” passengers due to the chaos caused implementing timetable changes across the country, the transport secretary has said.

Writing to MPs, Chris Grayling promised to rectify the “wholly unsatisfactory” levels of disruption to rail services, and said he was frustrated that the introduction of new services and new routes was “simply unacceptable” and had gotten off to such a poor start.

Delayed infrastructure works, such as the failure to deliver electrification from Bolton to Preston, gave too little planning time to permit adequate logistical planning for the timetable changes, and were one of the reasons Grayling cited as a contributing factor to the turmoil caused on the rail network last weekend.

Network Rail’s System Operator division—responsible for ensuring timetables are smoothly implemented and do not create overlaps between different types of services— was unable to ensure the plans for the whole network were workable, and consequently “caused chaos for the train companies.”

The secretary of state admitted that current timetabling has to change. “It is obvious that Network Rail’s current timetabling system simply cannot cope with the volume of work that it has to complete, and I have asked both the current leadership and the incoming chief executive, Andrew Haines, to ensure that this issue is addressed as a priority,” noted Grayling.

He also argued that the ongoing strike action has exacerbated the situation.

“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. I am determined both that the problems are dealt with as quickly as possible, and that this is not repeated in the future,” added Grayling.

The transport secretary added that he and rail minister Jo Johnson have been in contact with Transport for the North (TfN), Network Rail, and Northern Rail, and insisted that TfN and the two rail organisations “put whatever resource they need to into resolving the situation, making sure that there is proper leadership of the recovery effort.”

Last week Northern and Network Rail announced they will review failures of the operator’s recent timetable shakeup with an official independent investigation.

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Image credit: Lynne Cameron/PA Archive/PA Images


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