Transport Minister apologises for Northern rail 'chaos'

The Minister for Transport has apologised to rail passengers in the North who faced travel "chaos" following months of timetabling blunders.

Wednesday, 15th August 2018, 8:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th August 2018, 9:58 am
Chris Grayling apologised during an appearance on BBC Breakfast PIC: BBC

Chris Grayling apologised for rail cancellations and delays to Northern services during an appearance on BBC's Breakfast on Wednesday.

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The Minister appeared on the programme after hundreds of services were cancelled across the network following the introduction of new timetables in May.

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Chris Grayling said: "It's been unbelievably difficult particularly for those in the northern and Thameslink areas.

"The timetables in both areas have both now been stablised. They are not perfect yet but both areas are now seeing more trains running than was the case before the timetable change.

"The real frustration for passengers, and I'm really sorry that this has happened is that this was part of an investment programme where we are electrifying the railway line between Manchester and Blackpool.

"This is going to mean better services for passengers. That project went wrong.

"It has been delayed and as a result of that we have a fleet of electric trains that could not work, drivers and diesel trains are in the wrong place and it's caused chaos and I'm really sorry about that.

"That's why we have provided a compensation scheme that's effectively equivalent to a month's free travel for those who have been worst affected."

Last weekend Fylde MP Mark Menzies vented his fury over Northern's decision to cancel services to Blackpool's Airshow due to engineering works.

He said: "I am astounded that Northern Rail cancelled services yet again on our Blackpool South line last Sunday.

"It is simply not good enough and I have written to both Northern Rail and the Minister for Transport to ask that the matter be fully investigated.

"If Northern cannot provide the services on its timetable, it is time to bring in someone who can. "They are really running out of excuses now – I understand there has been a lot of engineering works to improve the network, but we have had those blamed, staff holidays blamed, union stances blamed, staff sickness blamed, and the ridiculous situation whereby we were told staff do not have to work on a Sunday should they choose not to.

"This is no way to run rail services, especially in the summer months when we expect our businesses, our shops, hotels, cafes and restaurants, to be benefitting from tourists coming into the area by rail.

"And I will not stand for my constituents facing ever-more uncertainty about how to get to and from work and schools and nurseries to collect and drop off children.

"Northern really need to understand how simple it is – we need a reliable, clean, efficient and affordable rail service now."