Grayling shifts the blame and points finger at rail industry for “failing passengers”

Chris Grayling has launched an attack on the rail industry by saying it has “collectively failed" passengers after timetable changes have caused chaos across the network during the last two weeks.

The transport secretary picked out Network Rail for special mention in a letter to northern MPs after he lambasted the "wholly unsatisfactory" levels of disruption caused by the rail organisation’s timetable overhaul.

Grayling blasted Network Rail’s approach to timetabling, stressing it has caused "chaos" for train companies by leaving it too late to ensure the new arrangements would not create conflicts across the railway.

He said he and the rail minister, Jo Johnson, were in daily conversations with Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which runs the affected Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern services, to resolve the situation.

The secretary of state said that despite being aware there might be some disruption in the early days of any new timetable change, the scale of the problem had “far outstripped any expectation”.

In a letter to MPs, Grayling said: "I am frustrated that what should have been good news for passengers, with the introduction of new services, new routes and expanded capacity has had such a poor start. "The industry collectively has failed the passengers it serves. A combination of delayed Network Rail infrastructure works and reduced planning time meant that the new timetable was finalised much too late to permit adequate logistical planning for the timetable changes." 

Commenting on timetable changes, a Network Rail spokesperson 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.”

The changes were introduced to increase capacity along the railways by creating space for 40,000 more passengers to travel in and out of London and allowing 24 trains will run every hour.

But rail user groups have cited a lack of money being pumped into the network as a big contributing factor in rail industry failures. 

Stephen Trigg of the Reigate, Redhill and District Rail Users Association, said: "Thameslink is just failing all over the place. This morning six out of 12 trains have disappeared from the timetable. That's before any cancellations. How do people get to work? Everyone I speak to from the train company is working extremely long hours trying to sort the problems out - but there's not enough of them. The bid was put in with a very slim-line management team and that bid won, because that's what the DfT wanted - a cheap bid. They need to put the money into the network."

A GTR spokesman apologised to passengers for the continued disruption and attempted to allay concerns by saying the firm was working on a recovery plan with rail partners.

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