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Northern and GTR trains hit by timetable ‘shambles’

Northern and GTR trains hit by timetable ‘shambles’
Northern train Image copyright Northern
Image caption Northern services operate across the North East and North West of England

Two troubled rail operators were responsible for almost 1,000 late or cancelled trains on Wednesday.

The disruption to passengers using Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) routes was described as a “complete shambles” by an MP.

Meanwhile, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said Northern’s “freefall” had shown “no signs of slowing down”.

Northern and GTR said they were urgently working on “comprehensive plans” to improve services.

The operators switched to new timetables on 20 May.

Wednesday’s disruption affected one in eight scheduled trains.

Mr Burnham also said at least 147 trains were cancelled or part-cancelled on 22 May and this had almost doubled to at least 281 on 29 May.

Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Select Committee, said she would ask the committee on Monday to “review the situation”, which may lead to a full inquiry.

Mr Burnham said the fact services have “continued to decline” is “nothing short of a scandal”.

“Ministers seems oblivious to the scale of this chaos and the impact this is having on people’s jobs and social lives on a daily basis,” he said.

Mr Burnham and Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram have called for Northern to lose the franchise if things do not improve.

Image copyright Susan Ramsdale
Image caption There were major delays on “Meltdown Monday” at Manchester Piccadilly

Mr Burnham has also accused Transport Secretary Chris Grayling of being “asleep at the wheel”.

He said: “I believe he now must take personal responsibility for sorting this situation out.”

Mr Grayling previously said improving Northern’s train services is the Department for Transport’s “number one performance priority”.

Northern said it has agreed actions with the DfT and is working on a plan to “stabilise” services.

Managing director David Brown said that “such a plan is likely to take a number of weeks to deliver lasting improvements”.

‘Worse disruption’

Mr Burnham spoke to Mr Grayling on a call with other political leaders in northern England.

He said they were previously told it was a Network Rail issue but have now been told it is more of a shared issue between Network Rail and Northern.

“The problem with that is we’ve had an action plan that’s been based on the wrong analysis for a week and here we are a week later with worse disruption,” said Mr Burnham.

“I take away from this that the pain of northern commuters, I’m afraid, is not worth the same as the pain of commuters in London.”

Abuse from passengers

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has also warned that the industry will suffer “lasting and irreparable damage” if the issues are not resolved.

The union added its members working for companies including Northern and (GTR) were facing increasing levels of abuse from passengers because of delays and cancellations.

Mr Burnham first called for an investigation into Northern’s “unacceptably poor” service on 16 May.

There were severe issues with cancellations and delays following the introduction of new timetables, with the following day dubbed “Meltdown Monday”.

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