'Who can say' whether Chris Grayling can deliver rail revolution

The timetable chaos during the Summer brought misery to tens of thousands of commuters

After a summer of disruption, a report has been released investigating the May timetable which caused major delays and cancellations on the Lakes and Furness lines.

Northern is deeply sorry for the unacceptable disruption caused to our customers in the north west of England following the introduction of the new timetable on Sunday 20 May 2018.

The ORR stated: "The impact of this experience has had a significant financial and emotional cost to those passengers affected, directly impacting upon their work and families and in some circumstances their personal safety".

The regulator's 183-page report added: "The present industry arrangements do not support clarity of decision making: it was unclear who was responsible for what".

Mr Grayling has previously told MPs he was not to blame for the chaos as he is "not a specialist in rail matters" and does "not run the railways".

It found GTR could not have reasonably accelerated this process, following the late delivery of the timetable from Network Rail.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail's chief executive, said: "Today, I'd like to add my sincerest apologies to passengers for letting them down with May's timetable troubles".

Wes Streeting, a Labour MP who sits on the Treasury committee, said; "I think rail passengers will be absolutely astonished that 'Failing Grayling" finds the time to go around on foreign jollies telling people how great the United Kingdom rail system is at precisely the same time as a damning report highlights his failure to ask basic questions of rail industry bosses. All of which contributed to the collapse of services, particularly on the GTR and Northern routes.

"Throughout this Summer we have worked tirelessly to ensure the train operating companies stabilise services in the North and with some success - and we will continue to do so".

Northern cancelled up to 310 scheduled trains each weekday during the disruption, which lasted several weeks. "I think it's a system problem, it's the way the whole industry works", he said. The companies also did not do enough to provide accurate information to passengers when disruption occurred.

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Both DfT and ORR are responsible for overseeing aspects of the industry, but neither sufficiently questioned assurances they received from the industry about the risk of disruption.

But they will also look at all other parts of the sector, including the current industry structures, accountability, value for money, the fares system, industrial relations, current siloed working, and changing travel and work patterns.

It comes after an official report into the recent rail timetable shambles found passengers were let down by rail bosses, ministers and regulators.

Yesterday, as the devastating report into the shambolic timetable overhaul was published, Mr Grayling was in Berlin to promote the benefits of United Kingdom rail at the world's largest rail trade fair, InnoTrans.

In response to the May timetable disruptions and longstanding concerns over what has been repeatedly branded a "broken" franchising system, the government has chose to formally launch a comprehensive review of the rail industry in the country - with reforms planned to be implemented from 2020.

Labour's shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald declared that passengers "don't need another review from the Tories to tell them that rail is broken".

Keith Williams said: "It's clear that Britain's railway has seen unprecedented growth and is carrying more passengers than it did a century ago on a network a fraction of the size". To help us achieve this, what's needed is a wide-ranging review looking at every part of the railway and focused on what works best for customers and taxpayers.

The Transport Secretary will hope the rail review will reduce calls to stop private firms running services.

Experts - working with passenger representatives, businesses, and devolved bodies - hope to review and build on the current franchising strategy in order to advance Chris Grayling's vision of bringing track and trains "closer together," meaning private operators will be able to invest in and shape rail infrastructure.

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