Transport Secretary announces independent inquiry into handling of train timetables
PUBLISHED: 18:44 04 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:45 04 June 2018
The Transport Secretary will set up an independent inquiry to investigate weeks of train cancellations, delays, and confusion.
Commuters from St Albans, Harpenden, Hatfield, and Welwyn Garden City have been plagued with long delays and overcrowding on Govia Thameslink Rail (GTR) services since May 20 when a new timetable was introduced.
GTR run the Thameslink and Great Northern lines.
Chris Grayling addressed Westminster today to explain and apologise for the last two weeks.
He said: “Let me be absolutely clear: passengers on these franchises are facing totally unsatisfactory levels of service. And it is my and my department’s number one priority to make sure the industry restores reliability for passengers to an acceptable level.
“I want to assure the passengers affected that I share their frustration about what has happened, and that I am sorry that this has taken place.”
He said GTR issues were caused by the last minute timetable development, meaning crews were not trained sufficiently.
There were no clear back-up plans, he said.
Mr Grayling added: “Indeed as few as three weeks before the timetable was to be implemented GTR themselves assured me personally they were ready to implement the changes. Clearly this was wrong, and it is totally unacceptable.
“The rail industry has collectively failed to deliver for the passengers it serves.
“It is right that the industry has apologised for the situation that we are currently in, and that we learn the lessons for the future.
“But right now the focus should be on restoring the reliability of their service to passengers.”
He added that officials in the transport department have been working “around the clock”.
On the inquiry, he said: “If it is found that GTR are materially in breach of their contractual obligations, I will take the appropriate enforcement action against them.
“This includes using the full force of the Franchise Agreement and my powers under the Railways Act, and I will include how such a failure impacts on their eligibility to hold a franchise bidding passport.”
A petition to terminate the GTR franchise contract this week reached 10,000 signatures.
Concluding: “I am incredibly frustrated that what should have been an improvement in services for passengers has turned into significant disruption. I am extremely sorry for the levels of disruption that passengers are experiencing and also sorry to those members of staff caught on the sharp end of these changes.
“There clearly have been major failures that have led to the situation we are in today. I am clear that the industry must and will be held to account for this.
“But my immediate priority is to ensure that the industry improves train services to an acceptable level as quickly as possible and that will remain my priority.”
He said measures are being taken to ensure affected passengers are compensated in due course.
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