Burnham calls for PM to step in over ‘rail chaos’ in the north

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The Prime Minister needs to step in to end the railways “chaos” in the north of England, says the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Andy Burnham said the intervention was needed as he claimed there were no signs of improvement in services despite repeated calls for action from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

In a letter to Theresa May, he wrote that performance on Northern Rail services “continued to be poor” following Mr Grayling’s statement in May that the issue was the number one priority for his department.

The mayor pointed out that in the first three weeks of its emergency timetable, introduced in June, services in its central region arriving on time had declined to 77.2%, compared to 88.4% in the corresponding period last year.

Lancashire/Cumbria inter-urban services had 1,179 full or part cancellations, while Merseyside services into Manchester/Wigan and North Manchester services totalled 991 train cancellations.

Mr Burnham said passengers were also “left in the lurch” on Sunday when Northern emailed customers to inform them it expected about 47 services to be withdrawn, including from Liverpool to Manchester Airport, to ensure its trains are in the right depots for Monday when it hopes to reintroduce most of its May 2018 timetabled services.

He said: “It is frankly outrageous for emails to be dispatched at 9pm on a Saturday night telling people that there will be a much-reduced service the following day. People heading to Manchester Airport to go on holiday will have been left stranded as will others with work and family commitments.

“Passengers cannot be left in the lurch like this. This is no way to run a railway and we cannot continue to put up with a rail service provided when the operators can be bothered. People’s lives are being badly affected by this chaos and the Government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of Northern commuters.

Chris Grayling
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling (Victoria Jones/PA)

In his letter to Mrs May, Mr Burnham said: “I would like to invite you to come to Greater Manchester at your earliest opportunity to meet with commuters to hear first-hand about the detrimental effect this chaos is having on their lives.

“I also urge you to call an urgent meeting with the rail industry to get clear answers as to why things are still so bad and an action plan to turn the situation around.

“Your Government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of Northern commuters. I hope that you will now take a lead in ensuring that people in the north get the rail service they deserve.”

Last week the leaders of Trafford Council and Tameside Council called for the sacking of Mr Grayling.

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