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Rail chaos: Burnham claims Grayling is ‘asleep at the wheel’, rail operators apologise

The mayor of Greater Manchester has argued that rail passengers are having their lives turned upside down by the major failures of implementing a new timetable in operators across the country.

Labour’s Andy Burnham argued that things have gotten “dramatically worse” since transport secretary Chris Grayling announced the government would tackle the poor performances last week.

“This is turning people’s lives upside down. People are on warnings from work for being constantly late. We cannot have the rail industry damaging people’s lives like this,” Burnham said on BBC Radio 4 today.

Burnham claimed that Northern rail commuters’ misery “is not of equal worth as southern commuters”, adding that if the same chaos happened to rail lines in the south Grayling would have stepped forward much sooner.

On Wednesday more than 200 trains across the Northern railway were cancelled, following another 280 cancelled trains on Tuesday.

“Last week we were told the transport secretary was making sorting out Northern his top priority – here we are seven days on and things have got dramatically worse,” added Burnham.

Burnham continued: “the case for renationalization has been well and truly made. I am left with the clear impression that nobody, least of all the transport secretary, has got a grip on this situation. He’s been asleep at the wheel.”

Earlier today chair of the Transport Committee Lilian Greenwood said that communication with passengers regarding the timetable changes was ‘woeful’.

Network Rail, GTR, Northern apologise for timetable troubles

The major rail operators behind the tumultuous timetable changes have issued an apology to passengers, claiming they are working with the DfT to establish a plan to stabilize services.

Bosses at Network Rail, GTR, and Northern claimed that the introduction of the new timetables on 20 May— dubbed the ‘biggest modernization since the Victorian era’— was unable to run smoothly due to late running of engineering improvements, delayed approvals for service changes, and late changes to timetable requests.

Mark Carne, Network Rail’s chief executive said: “There is no doubt that the May timetable was finalised significantly later than normal for reasons that were both within and without our control. The consequences of that have been particularly hard for both Northern and GTR to absorb. 

"But we are all firmly focussed on fixing this issue as quickly as possible to give passengers the reliable service they need and deserve. At the moment, in some parts of the country, that simply isn’t happening and for that I’d like to wholeheartedly apologise.”

Managing director at Northern David Brown said the operator is working with the DfT to build a plan to rectify services, adding that it is “likely to take a number of weeks” to ensure lasting improvements.

“The Thameslink Programme and the investment programmes on Northern will provide more capacity and reliability as intended, with more trains running more regularly and more reliably to more destinations.

“But these services will only be re-introduced when we can do so reliably without any negative effect on the service. The industry continues to be confident that the new timetables will work well once bedded-in,” added Brown.



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