Chris Grayling, transport secretary, said he was “extremely sorry for the level of disruption” being experienced by passengers on Britain’s trains, but blamed the problems on Network Rail and the rail companies concerned: Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway.
Mr Grayling said that the industry was confident it could deliver the timetable changes “until the last minute” but that a combination of late-running engineering work and a shortage of train crews had contributed to the chaos.
Labour called for the transport secretary to resign, but Mr Grayling used a Commons statement to deflect blame to the industry, insisting that his department had done its utmost to ensure the timetable change could be introduced smoothly.
He told MPs that Govia Thameslink had told him “personally” that it would be ready to implement the timetable change three weeks before it happened.
He said it was baffling that the industry insisted until the eleventh hour it could handle the changes, even though Network Rail was struggling to deliver an engineering project in Bolton and was behind schedule in other areas.
“The industry can and will be held account for this,” Mr Grayling said. “I’m extremely sorry for the level of disruption passengers are experiencing and by members of staff caught at the sharp end.”
He said he expected Northern to provide the same level of compensation to passengers as that awarded by Southern Railway last year after a series of strikes brought chaos to commuter lines into London.
There would be a review by his department into whether GTR and Northern had handled the situation well and had put in place mitigation measures in case things went wrong.
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