Northern rail chaos: Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told to 'come out of hiding'

Posted On: 
1st June 2018

Labour have urged the Transport Secretary to "come out of hiding" after a string of train cancellations brought misery to commuters on services run by Northern rail.

Mr Grayling was accused of living in a "parallel world" as Northern axed thousands of trains

The firm axed more than 200 services on Friday alone, and passengers have faced major travel chaos since a new timetable was brought in on May 20.

Northern has blamed rising demand, late-running engineering works and a shortage of drivers for the debacle, and this week launched an independent probe into the disrupted services.

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But Labour mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham today blasted the firm's rumoured solution of a fresh timetable shake-up as "unacceptable" - and turned his fire on minister Chris Grayling.

"The travelling public are having their lives turned upside down," he told BBC Breakfast. "The Transport Secretary needs to come out of hiding."

The Manchester mayor held talks with the Transport Secretary on Thursday, and told the Manchester Evening News after the meeting: "If this was happening in the south, there would be a different response from Mr Grayling."

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron - who represents the Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency which has seen a string of cancellations - also piled in, accusing Mr Grayling of living in a "parallel world".

He said: "Chris Grayling is always happy to blame everyone but himself for the delays, cancellations and other problems facing so many train users...

"People are being forced to miss hospital appointments, work and exams. The Transport Secretary needs to wake up to this and act, not least before the public have had enough and it is too late for him."

More than 2,000 Northern services have been shelved since the timetable shake-up, prompting the RMT union - which represents transport workers - to call for the Transport Secretary's head.

RMT boss Mick Cash fumed: "Not only is Chris Grayling incompetent and not fit to run a railway but he is a coward as well, leaving RMT members to take the flack for failed policies that are his responsibility."

Responding to the latest criticism, Mr Grayling said: “I am in regular discussions with Network Rail, Northern and GTR, and have reiterated that disruption suffered by passengers is wholly unacceptable. I have been very clear with Network Rail that it was far too late in finalising planned timetable changes and this must not happen again.

“Train companies are working to keep passengers moving and disruption minimised. While this is currently a huge inconvenience to passengers as the changes bed in, we are investing in the biggest modernisation of the railway since Victorian times and this new timetable will deliver hundreds more services up and down the country.”

A spokesperson for Northern said the firm had "agreed a number of actions with the Department for Transport" and was "urgently working with them on a comprehensive plan to stabilise our services".

They added: "Such a plan is likely to take a number of weeks to deliver lasting improvements, but we recognise our customers deserve better and that’s what we’re focused on."