Northern passengers must be fully compensated, says Burnham after services axed
Northern has introduced an ‘interim’ timetable which will remove 165 trains – 6% of services.
Frustrated train commuters in the North should get “substantial” compensation and fare reductions after a new timetable brought chaos to the network, the Mayor of Greater Manchester said.
Andy Burnham said train operator Northern was in the “last chance saloon” after axing hundreds of services, delays and cancellations following the new timetable introduced on May 20.
Northern has apologised and last Friday evening introduced an “interim” timetable, starting on Monday, removing 165 trains – 6% of services.
Areas affected include Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool and the Lakes Line between Oxenholme and Windermere.
⚠️ TRAVEL UPDATE ⚠️ From Monday 4 June until the end of July, we are introducing temporary timetables in some areas to enable us to return to a reliable level of service. Details can be found here 👉 https://t.co/wi3vCY46ty pic.twitter.com/QT89vlriZB— Northern (@northernassist) June 1, 2018
In a letter to the Chair of Transport for the North (TfN) John Cridland, the mayor says that Northern is likely to benefit financially from the operation of the reduced timetable and if the company is not prepared to fund the compensation package and reduce fares voluntarily, then fines should be imposed to pay for it.
Mr Burnham also called for Northern passengers on affected routes to be allowed to use their tickets on other modes of transport such as TransPennine Express trains, buses and Metrolink.
He said: “Northern have already left people seriously out of pocket and turned their lives upside down with their chaotic services.
“I have heard countless stories of people forking out for taxis, hire cars, hotels and extra childcare but unable to get compensation for it.
“Now that Northern are unilaterally cancelling thousands of services – that many season ticket holders have already paid for – passengers must be properly and fully compensated.
"Northern have once again shown contempt for the travelling public of Greater Manchester."— Mayor Andy Burnham (@MayorofGM) June 1, 2018
The Mayor has responded to train operator Northern introducing an emergency timetable from Monday after weeks of travel chaos across our city-region. More 🔽 pic.twitter.com/aJnpdaRcOt
“There must also be a general reduction in fares for all passengers on routes affected by these changes.
“Northern are set to benefit financially from this emergency timetable. It is the company, and not the passengers, who should pay the price for their mismanagement.
“As far as I am concerned, this emergency timetable represents the last chance saloon for Northern.
“They are causing too much damage to the economy of the North to be allowed to inflict their miserable, unreliable services on us any longer.
“If they are not providing the promised new May timetable by early August, then steps should be taken to strip the franchise from them.”
Northern insists it will still run more trains than it did before last month’s timetable change, and expects to “get back to a full timetable service by the end of July”.
The firm’s managing director David Brown has apologised for the “unacceptable service” and said they are working hard to fix the problems.
Elsewhere London Mayor Sadiq Khan said disruption to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) services is damaging the “international reputation” of the capital and said the firm should be stripped of its franchise to run services.
On Friday GTR – which consists of Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express – saw almost one in 10 (9%) of its trains either cancelled or more than 30 minutes late.
Northern’s record was even worse at 16%.
Britain’s rail timetable is updated twice a year, but the latest version has many more changes than normal in a bid to improve punctuality and account for extra services and capacity following billions of pounds of investment.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said he is in “regular discussions” with train operators but the new timetable will ultimately deliver hundreds more services.
Mr Brown said that what has happened to passengers “is absolutely not acceptable” as he apologised for “a very poor start to this timetable”.
A thinned out interim timetable which reduces the service by six per cent has been introduced for the next eight weeks but frustrated passengers were warned “it will take two or three days to bed in”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We have been cancelling far too many trains, inconveniencing far too many people and we are truly sorry for that.
“Today is us trying to sort that out by bringing in an interim timetable and by reducing the amount of trains that we operate to try and give people a little bit more certainty about planned cancellations rather than them turning up to the station and then finding that the train is not running.”
He added: “We are now putting all our efforts in trying to fix this. We are running more and more trains all the time and that is what is causing the problem, the capacity on the track. We are reducing the timetable from today by six per cent but we are still running more trains than we were in April this year.”
Stating “this is not a quick fix”, Mr Brown said he hopes progress will be made during the next eight weeks and that a compensation package for customers is being put in place.