Council leader demands action over ongoing rail chaos

Wigan's fed-up council leader has called for a joint letter involving his opposite number be sent to the Department for Transport demanding action over the ongoing train timetables fiasco.
Council leader Coun David MolyneuxCouncil leader Coun David Molyneux
Council leader Coun David Molyneux

Coun David Molyneux said he himself had been stuck on a packed and stalled train for 40 minutes recently after another scheduling cock-up.

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He said Northern Rail - which had to cancel many Sunday services at the weekend after claiming that staff “hadn’t made themselves available - is providing “worse than a Third World service on many occasions” as new figures revealed performance levels have slumped despite the introduction of an emergency timetable.

The comments at the latest meeting of the region’s combined authority came days before a damning report said the Northern and TransPennine timetable crisis in May and June is estimated to have slashed almost £38m from the economy.

GM mayor Andy Burnham has already written to the Prime Minister asking for her to intervene over the “chaos on the railways”.

And at the latest Greater Manchester Combined Authority meeting, Coun Molyneux said: “It’s unacceptable, let’s be honest about it. No matter what nice words we say about this, it just doesn’t get any better.”

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Town hall leaders accused transport secretary Chris Grayling of “hiding away” with some calling for him to resign.

Coun Molyneux said he would support colleagues in writing to the Department for Transport to call for action and urged “we all sign it”.

He added: “This service affects us all and it’s so poor in its delivery, I’ve said before: it’s worse than a Third World service on many occasions.

“I sat on a train that was stopped just outside (Manchester) Oxford Road station for something like 40 minutes the other day, it’s not a pleasant experience to say the least, especially when it’s packed.

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“We can’t keep putting up and accepting the service that these people purport to give us.

“Let’s all get behind it and all sign the letter and if other authorities in and around the north want to sign it, let them sign it too, and let’s give them what for, please.”

Figures in a report tabled at the CA meeting showed the introduction of the interim timetable in June had seen the rate of Northern trains arriving on time rise from 61.8 per cent, the week before it was brought in, to 80 the week after.

The rate is said to have "stabilised" with 77.2 recorded for the period covering the majority of June, compared with 88.4 in the same period the previous year.

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But it has since fallen to 71.4 at the start of July, the report adds.

There was also a rise in "short-forming", when trains arrive with fewer carriages than expected.

The Department for Transport disputes the calculations as a “likely overstatement” of the economic impact and said an inquiry has been launched over the timetable chaos “to establish what went wrong and to ensure this does not happen again.”

A spokesperson added: “The disruption that Northern passengers have experienced is unacceptable and it is vital that services continue to improve and passengers are compensated fully.”