Northern Rail disruption cost businesses 'almost £38 million'

  • Video report by ITV News North of England Correspondent Damon Green

Disruption to Northern Rail services has cost businesses almost £38 million, a damning report has revealed.

People lost their jobs and missed out on employment opportunities, with businesses suffering staff shortages and a drop in productivity as a result of the rail chaos, according to a report by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), which is chaired by former chancellor George Osborne.

Northern Rail slashed nearly 170 services a day – 6% of its total – in early June after a new timetable introduced in May resulted in hundreds of delays and cancellations.

Northern is now reintroducing three-quarters of services which were removed. The phased reintroduction of services, which will see 75% brought back from Monday and the remaining 25% in September, was recommended by industry bodies.

Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham has called on the Prime Minister to intervene in “rail chaos” in the north of England.

"People's lives are being badly affected by this chaos and the Government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of Northern commuters," Mr Burnham said. He said there were no signs of improvement in services despite repeated calls for action from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Andy Burnham called on the Prime Minister to intervene. Credit: PA

The NPP report said the cost of disruption was up to £1.3m a day at its worst.

Some Trans Pennine routes saw half of services cancelled or seriously delayed on the worst days and, as Trans Pennine did not provide figures for the NPP report, the full cost to the north is likely to be higher than £38m.

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

The NPP report, Devolving our Railways, levelled criticism at rail firms but also at the Department for Transport and Network Rail, with the latter's overrunning engineering work sparking the initial problems.

Mr Osborne, chairman of the NPP, called for powers including spending to be devolved to Transport for the North.

Rail replacement services have been put on many routes. Credit: PA

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry branded the disruption "unacceptable", saying: "An independent inquiry has been launched to establish what went wrong and to ensure this does not happen again.

"The first step towards any further devolution to TfN is for northern leaders to come together and pool their fare income into a single central body."

Northern’s managing director David Brown said the planned phased reintroduction of services was the right approach "to ensure a more stable and reliable service for customers".

He said: “We introduced an interim timetable on a number of routes from 4 June, and that has enabled us to accelerate our driver training, stabilise service levels, improve performance and significantly reduce last-minute cancellations.”

“Whilst we are ready to reintroduce all 168 daily services, given the need to drive further improvements across Manchester, we have agreed to a more gradual reintroduction of our services. A phased introduction is the right approach to ensure a more stable and reliable service for customers.”

The services being reintroduced on Monday are:

  • A full service on the Lakes Line of 35 trains a day following a partial reintroduction on July 2

  • A full service from Blackpool to Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly of 31 trains in total a day

  • A full service from Lancaster to Morecambe with 24 trains a day reinstated

  • A full service from Preston and Blackburn with four trains a day reinstated

  • 17 daily (of 30 removed) trains between Blackpool South and Colne via Preston

  • 10 services a day (of 16 removed) between Ormskirk and Preston

  • Four daily (of 10 removed) trains on the Kirkby to Manchester Victoria line via Wigan

The remaining removed services which also include six daily Blackburn to Southport trains and 12 daily Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge trains, will be reinstated in September.

Northern said the new timetable had been designed to provide more services with its growing fleet on upgraded lines.

However a delay in the electrification of the Manchester-Preston via Bolton line meant it had to be planned and delivered in four months, compared to the “normal nine to 12 months”.

The delay meant the timetable had to be totally rewritten and “significant levels” of complex driver training on new routes with different trains had to be carried out.

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.

"These changes will help minimise disruption and ensure passengers see the benefits of our long-term investment in the railways."