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Transport Secretary gets backing from PM amid rail misery for travellers

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham was among those calling for Chris Grayling to lose his job.

Embattled Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was given a vote of confidence by his boss on Monday amid calls for his sacking as northern commuters endured more rail misery.

As dozens of trains on Monday were again cancelled or late across the north of England, Prime Minister Theresa May still has “full confidence” in Mr Grayling, her official spokesman said, adding: “We understand the anger and frustration of rail passengers in the north of England”.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham called for the “chaos” to end and for the Transport Secretary’s job to face the axe.

Told of the Prime Minister’s “full confidence” in the Transport Secretary, Mr Burnham responded: “Well I don’t know how she can make that statement because we have got chaos on our railways.

“He hasn’t been doing his job.

“If he had been doing his job northern commuters wouldn’t be putting up with the daily lottery of not knowing whether or not they are going to arrive at work on time.

“This isn’t a new problem, the chaos goes back a long way, there is no sign of it ending.

“Where has he been? Why hasn’t he been dealing with that?”

Asked where Mr Grayling is on Monday, a spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “We do not comment on ministerial diaries.”

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Chris Grayling (background) has been backed to stay in his job by Theresa May (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Asked if Mr Grayling, with Parliament now in recess for the summer, was now on holiday, the spokesman gave the same response.

A Whitehall source said Mr Grayling was not on holiday and would be back at his desk on Tuesday but gave no details about his whereabouts on Monday.

Northern Rail was due on Monday to reinstate 75% of routes withdrawn after a new timetable caused severe disruption in May.

But angry commuters were once again left bemoaning cancelled or late services across Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and the Yorkshire region.

A total of 94 trains were fully or partially cancelled by 3pm on Monday, according to the Northern Fail app, developed by one long-suffering commuter to document disruption on the network.

And the Trains.im website, which uses open rail data, reported 27% of services on the TransPennine route were either cancelled or more than 30 minutes late, 20% were classed as between five and 30 minutes late and only just over half, 53%, running and on-time.

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A Northern Rail train at Leeds station (Danny Lawson/PA)

On south TransPennine routes, 65% of services were either late or cancelled and only six of 17 train services between Preston and Scotland were running late and on time, according to the website.

In Liverpool, as the Department for Transport retweeted about the reopening of Lime Street station after an eight-week upgrade of the city’s main train hub, passengers were bemoaning the fact their trains had not arrived.

aTobias1 tweeted: “First day back after two months of the Lime Street closures and the associated travel chaos and my train is cancelled ??????????”

Another commuter, @wretchedascrisp, lamented the cancellation of the 8.17am Urmston to Manchester Oxford Road, tweeting: “It’s ok it’s the summer holidays, not like anyone’s going to work today.”

He then tweeted a picture of a later train service, overcrowded with passengers.

In a letter to Mrs May asking her to intervene Mr Burnham wrote that performance on Northern Rail services “continued to be poor” following Mr Grayling’s statement in May that the issue was the number one priority for his department.

It came as a report by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) revealed a major impact on businesses, commuters and families.

It said businesses had lost almost £38 million because of Northern Rail disruption.

Over the entire period, using Northern Rail figures, 945,180 hours were lost to delays, an average of 22,504 per day.

Mr Burnham added: “This is no way to run a railway and we cannot continue to put up with a rail service provided when the operators can be bothered.”

A Government spokesman said: “The Rail North Partnership has accepted the rail industry’s recommendation to phase in services from Monday, when 75% of the Northern train services removed during the interim timetable will be reintroduced.

“This is in addition to further adjustments to timetables to improve reliability, so that passengers can better plan ahead.

“Andy Burnham sits on the board of Transport for the North, which jointly manages the Northern franchise through the Rail North Partnership.”

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