Northern trains axed amid timetable 'carnage'

Image source, Stephen Pimlott
Image caption,
Frustrated rail users let their feelings be known at Manchester Piccadilly

Northern has cancelled 165 daily train services until the end of July following major disruption since new timetables were introduced last month.

The "interim timetable", to be introduced on Monday, removes 6% of the train operator's total services.

Areas affected include Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool and the Lakes Line between Oxenholme and Windermere.

Northern has aborted 2,200 services in the last fortnight, with more than 200 cancelled or heavily delayed on Friday.

The company - which has faced calls for it to be stripped of its franchise - insisted it will still run more trains than it did before the timetable change on 20 May, and expects to "get back to a full timetable service" by the end of next month.

It follows a warning by the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, that an "emergency" timetable was being considered to deal with the scale of train cancellations and delays.

Media caption,
Passengers react to Northern Rail "carnage"

Mr Burnham said the introduction of an emergency timetable was "unacceptable".

"The travelling public are having their lives turned upside down."

Northern managing director David Brown said: "We have been experiencing some significant disruption to train services, especially around north Manchester, Bolton, Liverpool, Blackpool and up to the Lake District."

He apologised for the "unacceptable situation" and "unacceptable service many customers have been subject to".

Mr Brown added: "We are absolutely committed to resolving the service issues and the interim plan will help ensure we start to get back on track and start to give customers more certainty around the services we operate."

Image source, Stephen Noble, Tom Bitcliffe, Kieran Trafford
Image caption,
Commuters across the north of England have faced overcrowding on trains and platforms

The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling cited government-owned Network Rail - which manages the rail infrastructure - for the problems.

He said it was "too late in finalising planned timetable changes" which have caused widespread problems since they were introduced.

The RMT's general secretary Mick Cash said the minister should "get out" and described the situation as "carnage".

Mr Cash said his members are facing public anger "without a shred of support" from Mr Grayling or Northern's management.

He said it was "disgusting" that Mr Grayling and bosses of rail companies have "dived for cover" and not faced passengers.

"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," he said.

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In response, the transport secretary issued a statement which said: "I am in regular discussions with Network Rail, Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway (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."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling "needs to come out of hiding", said Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham

Earlier this week, Mr Grayling wrote to MPs over the "wholly unsatisfactory" service on GTR in the south of England and Northern.

He also criticised Network Rail, saying it "cannot cope" with the workload, and its performance was "simply unacceptable".

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said Mr Grayling would meet with MPs on Monday when the Transport Select Committee will review the Northern and GTR franchises.

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Last month's timetable update included many more changes than normal in an attempt to improve punctuality and account for extra services and capacity following billions of pounds of investment.

The timing of all GTR and most Northern trains was changed, but all the new journeys needed to be individually approved by Network Rail, which is responsible for managing infrastructure.

Image caption,
Commuters have been faced with cancellations across the network

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