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Mayors demand Government action over 'dire' rail services

Steve Rotheram Credit: Louisa Collins-Marsh/PA Archive/PA Images

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have demanded that the Government take action over what they describe as 'dire' services in the North.

The Mayor for Greater Manchester the Metro Mayor for Liverpool have criticised Northern Rail for 'causing chaos' on networks for "far too long".

Hundreds of services have been cancelled by Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway since departure times were rescheduled on Sunday.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it was a "major teething problem" in what would be a "step forward for the railways" on Wednesday.

He insisted sorting out Northern services was his "number one performance priority".

But the mayors said talk of teething problems suggested issues have arisen only recently with the timetable shake-up, when in fact services have been poor for a long time.

Following the joint call with Mr Grayling, they said any solution needed to address the operator's "endemic staffing shortage".

In a statement they called for an "agreed analysis" of the causes of problems and an improvement plan by Northern, including "clear dates and milestones" so it could be held to account.

They also demanded a deadline for outstanding Delay Repay claims for passenger refunds, a broader compensation offer for regular travellers, and a removal of Northern's licence to operate if it failed to meet the agreed plan.

The statement read: "Chaos on the North's rail network has been so extreme and so prolonged that as a company Northern have lost the benefit of the doubt.

"They simply cannot be permitted to keep inflicting a miserable sub-standard service on the hundreds of thousands of passengers across our region who have had to endure dire train travel for far too long."

Northern has submitted "urgent plans" to tackle its poor performance, the Department for Transport has said.

This would include improving driver rostering, increasing driver training on new routes and putting extra peak services into the timetable on key routes.

DfT officials were "working urgently" with Northern and transport body Transport for the North to improve services.

Mr Grayling was due to meet Northern bosses on Thursday.

A spokesman for Northern has accepted it had been a "difficult few days" and apologised for the delays and cancellations.

On Wednesday, Mr Grayling reserved criticism for Network Rail, the state-owned company responsible for Britain's rail infrastructure, as he claimed they left the rest of the industry "struggling to catch up" after it was "far too late" in finalising planned timetable changes.

The rail timetable is updated twice a year, but the latest update has seven times more changes than normal due to the introduction of new trains and a bid to make existing services more reliable

Andy Burnham Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire/PA Images

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North West politicians pay tribute to Tessa Jowell

Dame Tessa Jowell Credit: PA/PA Wire/PA Images

Politicians from the North West have paid tribute to DameTessa Jowell who has died aged seventy.

The former Labour cabinet minister who was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumour in May last year, suffered a haemorrhage on Friday, and had been in a coma until her death on Saturday, a spokesman for the family said.

The Ashton MP Angela Rayner says that she was a highly respected politician and stalwart of the Labour Party over many years.

And Rebecca Long-Bailey, who represents Salford and Eccles for Labour, says she was an inspiration to other women.

Debbie Abrahams MP has been sacked from Labour's shadow Cabinet

Debbie Abrahams claimed she was a 'victim of a bullying culture' Credit: Debbie Abrahams MP

Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams has been sacked from Labour's shadow Cabinet after an investigation into workplace bullying.

The Labour Party said in March that Ms Abrahams had "stood aside from her frontbench role while they investigate an employment issue".

The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said at the time she had not agreed to stand aside and claimed she had been a victim of a "bullying culture of the worst kind".

A Labour Party spokesman said:

"After a thorough party investigation into allegations of workplace bullying, Debbie Abrahams has been referred to the NEC disputes committee. She has been relieved of her post as shadow work and pensions secretary."

Ms Abrahams counter claim of bullying by the Labour Leader's office has been thrown out by. She will now go to the NEC disputes panel and denies the bullying claims against her.

"I strongly refute the allegations of bullying made against me. I believe the investigations was not thorough, fair or independent.

I will continue to represent the people of Oldham East and Saddleworth, and to hold this Government to account, from the back benches."

– Debbie Abrahams MP

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