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Scale of problem with rail timetable change ‘far outstripped expectation’

There have been ‘wholly unsatisfactory levels of disruption’ on Northern and GTR services since departure times were rescheduled, the minister said.

The rail industry has “failed the passengers it serves” following the implementation of a new timetable, the Transport Secretary said.

There have been “wholly unsatisfactory levels of disruption” on Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) services since departure times were rescheduled on May 20, according to Chris Grayling.

In two letters to MPs, Mr Grayling described how he is “frustrated” that what should have been a “good news story” about the introduction of new services and expanded capacity has had “such a poor start”.

Commuters are suffering their second week of travel chaos with the new timetable.

On Tuesday some 14% of Northern services were cancelled, with a further 25% at least five minutes late.

GTR saw 10% of trains cancelled and 14% delayed.

The rail timetable is updated twice a year, but the latest update has seven times more changes than normal due to investment and a bid to make existing services more reliable.

We were aware that there might be some disruption in the early days of any new timetable change of this size, but the scale of the problem has far outstripped any expectation Chris Grayling

Mr Grayling wrote: “We were aware that there might be some disruption in the early days of any new timetable change of this size, but the scale of the problem has far outstripped any expectation.”

The new timetable was finalised “much too late to permit adequate logistical planning” due to delayed Network Rail infrastructure works, Mr Grayling stated.

In relation to Northern routes, the minister explained that the failure to deliver electrification to Bolton and Preston in time for the new timetable had delayed the introduction of new electric trains.

This meant there was a shortage of trains to cover the planned increase in services.

He added that the way Network Rail creates timetables is “simply unacceptable”.

Mr Grayling disclosed that he has ordered Network Rail, Northern and GTR to use “whatever resources they need” to resolve the situation.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Late timetables have certainly not helped the recent events but there are many other factors across the industry involved and we are looking at understanding the root cause so that future changes can be implemented more smoothly.”

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