Rail service improvements and disruptions

13.06.18

Northern leaders warn travel chaos could continue unless TfN handed more powers

Northern business and council leaders have called for the government to grant Transport for the North (TfN) full powers to manage all northern infrastructure.

In an open letter published by the Sunday Times, the group warned the government that without greater authority, TfN would not be able to supervise the delivery of the north’s strategic transport plan or avoid repeats of the current “fiasco” in the future.

The letter, signed by most northern council leaders, comes after the north has suffered weeks of travel chaos following a major timetable shake-up – which has reportedly led to travellers missing vital appointments and receiving written warnings at work, while businesses have “struggled to cope” and public services have been put under strain.

But even when things return to normal, the letter’s authors are concerned that the railways across the Northern Powerhouse region are not good enough to attract investment and increase productivity at the required pace.

“By the time of this autumn’s Budget, we want the government to commit itself to implementing the TfN’s Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) strategic outline business case in full, guaranteeing that northern businesses will secure growth and our children can use a fit-for-purpose modern rail network,” they said.

They have also called on the government to work with Northern Rail to establish a comprehensive passenger compensation scheme now.

Although he did not sign this letter, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham recently wrote to the transport secretary to demand substantial compensation, which Chris Grayling eventually caved to.

Yesterday, Transport Focus also set out demands on behalf of passengers that had suffered following the timetable changes. The watchdog argued that existing compensation schemes do not reflect the difficulties that passengers have been experiencing on Thameslink, Great Northern and Northern over recent weeks.

Chief executive of Transport Focus, Anthony Smith, said: “We’ve heard from people who have been unable to get into work, a heavily pregnant woman stuck on a coach for hours, someone unable to visit their elderly parent – all because they are unable to rely on the train.”

Pressing the industry to make it clear how it will go beyond Delay Repay payouts, he added: “We want train companies to spell out, as soon as possible, how they will compensate those affected. Meanwhile we urge all passengers to claim what they can now and send a strong message to operators that this level of service is unacceptable.”

The watchdog is demanding for season ticket-holders to receive a lump sum to reflect the hardship experienced and for recognition of the impact on regular travellers who do not buy season tickets. It is also calling for special offers to rebuild trust once services have returned to normal and for Northern to adopt a 15-minute delay trigger rather than 30 minutes.

Next week, Transport Focus’ board will meet in public in Manchester to quiz the managing directors of Northern and TransPennine on the disruption.

Northern capacity, including NPR and other major plans for the region, will be widely discussed at this year’s TransCityRail Conference, set to be opened by TfN’s NPR director Tim Wood.

Top image: LBC PA Wire PA Images

 

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