MPs savage Chris Grayling for 'dodging responsibility' over rail timetable chaos

Posted On: 
4th December 2018

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling tried to dodge responsibility for the rail timetabling chaos earlier this year but he should have taken the rap, MPs have declared.

Commuters hit by delays at Waterloo Station, London
PA Images

The Cabinet minister had the “ultimate authority” to fix the issues and should have been “more proactive,” according to the Transport Select Committee.

A massive new timetable rollout in May led to delays and cancellations around the country - with furious passengers struggling to navigate a crippled network.

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In September this year Mr Grayling argued he did not “run” the railways and said it would be “tough for any politician to overrule the advice of the professionals” who told him the timetabling changes would be fine.

But the Transport Committee said although he had “at no point” been given all the information he needed to halt the rollout he should have made sure he was in control.

“The Secretary of State for Transport is responsible for the structure of the system that controls and runs our railways. He is at the apex of this system,” its new report said.

“Some of the problems caused by timetabling changes arose from the structure of the railways.

“It is therefore not reasonable for the Secretary of State to absolve himself of all responsibility.

“We acknowledge that the Secretary of State was not fully informed of serious problems, but he should have been more proactive.”

Labour MP and chair of the committee Lilian Greenwood added: “There was extraordinary complacency about protecting the interests of passengers, who were very badly let down.

Despite months of chaos on the country’s railways, the Rail Delivery Group announced last week that commuters in England and Wales will start the New Year paying 3.1% more for tickets.

The Committee said around a fifth of rail passengers “suffered appalling services” and that a fare increase for them would “confirm that the current fares system is broken”.

It added that 2018 Northern, TransPennine Express, Thameslink and Great Northern season ticket holders should receive a discount, equivalent to the increase announced, on renewed season tickets in 2019.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We have already worked with the industry to deliver special compensation schemes on Northern, TransPennine Express and GTR, which provides the equivalent of up to 8% of the cost of an annual season ticket for those most severely impacted.

“The disruption following the May timetable change demonstrated that significant change is required in the rail industry. That is why we launched the Williams review to consider all parts of the industry in order to put passengers first, with reforms to begin from 2020.”