Transport secretary Chris Grayling addressed MPs yesterday on the disruption caused by new timetables on Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern services, pointing the blame again at Network Rail and demanding a compensation scheme for affected passengers.
In his speech, Grayling said: “…it is my and my department’s number one priority to make sure the industry restores reliability for passengers to an acceptable level”.
He again partially blamed Network Rail for issues on Northern, saying early analysis shows the problems rose from late delivery of infrastructure upgrades, including the Bolton electrification scheme.
Grayling says this caused “plans to be changed at a very late stage – requiring a complete overhaul of logistics and crew planning”.
He reiterated his point that on both GTR and Northern, Network Rail was late in approving the timetable changes, meaning the operators didn’t have enough time to plan crew schedules or complete training.
However, Grayling pointed out that the Industry Readiness Board, which oversaw planning for the new timetables over the course of two years, received no indication that either company would not be prepared for the change.
Grayling has demanded that “Network Rail and the train operator work more collaboratively across the industry to resolve the situation”, even saying they should use resources from other operators where necessary.
He also said a compensation scheme for those on affected routes is being developed. “The industry will set out more detail of the eligibility requirements and how season ticket holders can claim.”
He has called for the scheme to be similar to compensation offered to Southern passengers during last year’s strikes, saying: “Commuters in the North are as important as commuters in the South and should receive comparable compensation.”
Grayling has launched an inquiry by the independent Office of Rail and Road chaired by Stephen Glaister. It will look into the reasons why the implementation of the timetable failed “so that lessons can be learned” for future changes.
The Department for Transport will also assess whether GTR and Northern broke the terms of their franchise agreement, although Grayling said the impact of Network Rail’s failure to deliver upgrades on time will be considered.
“I will not hold back from taking appropriate action if the review finds that there has been negligent behaviour,” he warned.
Grayling closed his speech by apologising to passengers for the disruption and to rail staff “caught on the sharp end of these changes”.
Read Grayling’s full speech here.