Rail timetable debacle harming London’s reputation, says Khan

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Disruption following the introduction of new rail timetables is damaging the “international reputation” of London, mayor Sadiq Khan has warned.

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

Mr Khan described the performance of GTR – which operates in south-east England – 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 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.

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.

Mr Grayling has claimed the rail industry “failed the passengers it serves”.

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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