1. ITV Report

Train operator Northern to remove 165 trains a day to 'stabilise service levels'

Northern has reduced services by 6% to 'stablilise' its service. Photo: AP
  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Damon Green

Rail company Northern will remove 165 trains a day from its schedules until the end of July to "stablise service levels" amid major disruption following the introduction of a new timetable.

The decision to temporarily change the timetable is in a bid to reduce last minute cancellations, Northern said.

From Monday, June 4 there will be a 6% reduction of the rail operator's 2,800 daily services until the end of July.

Thousands of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) - which operates in south-east England - and Northern trains have been cancelled or delayed by more than 30 minutes since new schedules were introduced on May 20.

Services run by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) have also been cancelled or delay due to the new schedules. Credit: PA

London Mayor Sadiq Khan hit out at the rail operators describing the rail services as "nothing short of a debacle" and "wholly unsatisfactory".

He warned that it was damaging the "international reputation" of London. Northern's Managing Director, David Brown said: "We have been experiencing some significant disruption to train services, especially around north Manchester, Bolton, Liverpool,Blackpool and up to the Lake District.

"I'd like to apologise for this unacceptable situation and for the disruption and inconvenience many passengers have faced. We’re truly sorry for this and are working hard to fix this."

He added: "We are absolutely committed to resolving the service issues, and the interim plan will help ensure we start to get back on track and start to give customers more certainty around the services we operate."

Credit: PA

Areas affected are:

  • Lakes Line: For two weeks, all services on the Lakes Line to and from Preston, Lancaster and Oxenholme will be removed and there will be a replacement bus service in effect.
  • Blackpool: Services will be reduced between Blackpool South and Preston, Preston and Colne and a small number of off-peak services between Blackpool North and Manchester Airport will be removed. Other services between Blackpool North and Manchester Piccadilly will start and terminate at Manchester Oxford Road.
  • Lancashire: There will be reductions between Ormskirk and Preston and Blackburn and Southport via Manchester Victoria and many services on the Lancaster to Morecambe line will be removed.
  • Manchester: There will be reduced services on the Kirkby to Manchester Victoria line via Wigan and between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge.
  • LiverpoolCity Region: Due to the closure of Liverpool Lime Street for significant remodelling and resignalling work, services will be reduced with three trains per hour between Liverpool and Wigan and Manchester Victoria.

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 by 3.30pm.

Northern’s record was even worse at 16%.

This included every train on the Lakes Line between Windermere and Oxenholme.

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.

Northern trains cancelled or significantly late on Friday.
GTR trains cancelled or significantly late on Friday.

The timing of all GTR and most Northern trains was changed, but all the new journeys needed to be individually approved by Government-owned Network Rail, which is responsible for managing infrastructure.

Network Rail, GTR and Northern apologised to passengers, blaming the “sheer number of changes” and late-running engineering projects for a delay in approving the new timetables and making amendments.

This meant train companies had “much less time to prepare”.

There were fresh “logistical challenges” and driver training requirements caused by the alterations to the schedules submitted to Network Rail.

Chris Grayling said the disruption to passengers is 'wholly unacceptable'. Credit: PA

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has claimed the rail industry “failed the passengers it serves”.

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He said: “I am in regular discussions with Network Rail, Northern and GTR, and have reiterated that disruption suffered by passengers is wholly unacceptable.

“I have been very clear with Network Rail that it was far too late in finalising planned timetable changes and this must not happen again.

“Train companies are working to keep passengers moving and disruption minimised.

“While this is currently a huge inconvenience to passengers as the changes bed in, we are investing in the biggest modernisation of the railway since Victorian times and this new timetable will deliver hundreds more services up and down the country.”

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