Dozens of trains axed as ‘interim timetable’ introduced to cut cancellations

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Train operator Northern has axed 165 daily services until the end of July to improve reliability amid major disruption.

Passengers have been hit with hundreds of delays and cancellations since new timetables were introduced on May 20.

An “interim timetable” will be introduced on Monday with 165 trains removed – 6% of Northern’s total services.

Areas affected include Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool and the Lakes Line between Oxenholme and Windermere.

Northern insisted it will still run more trains than it did before last month’s timetable change, and expects to “get back to a full timetable service by the end of July”.

The firm’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.

“Again I would like to apologise on behalf of Northern for the unacceptable service many customers have been subject to.

“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.”

David Sidebottom, passenger director at Transport Focus, said passengers want “accurate information” and called for “an honest, realistic interim plan that leads to a return of reliable services”.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said disruption to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) services is damaging the “international reputation” of the capital.

He described the performance of the network as “nothing short of a debacle” and “wholly unsatisfactory”.

In a letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Mr Khan said he would be “totally supportive” of a decision to strip GTR of its franchise immediately.

“Passengers have had enough of excuses and a lack of accountability,” the mayor stated.

He also wrote to GTR chief executive Charles Horton, urging him to give Londoners “a detailed account of how these problems are going to be resolved”.

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.

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.

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”.

Mr Grayling 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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