Rail chaos ’caused £38m of damage to Northern economy’

Northern Rail

The transport chaos linked to rail timetable changes this summer cost railway users more than a million hours and resulted in a £38m hit to the economy, a new report revealed today.

And Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has written to Prime Minister Theresa May urging her to personally intervene to resolve the the rail “chaos” in the North.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), set up by former Chancellor George Osborne, issued a report today outlining the impact on commuters, businesses and families of the botched introduction of a new timetable by train operator Northern on May 20.

The report calls for more powers to be devolved to regional body Transport for the North (TfN) after accusing the Government of failing to intervene to prevent the disruption.

The NPP’s report claims that for Northern customers alone, 945,180 hours were lost between May 20, and June 30, at an average of 22,504 per day, resulting in a £38m loss to the economy.

The NPP says rail company TransPennine Express failed to provide data, meaning the total loss to the Northern economy is likely to be far greater.

Today’s report claimed that the delays led to employees failing to get to work, missing out on job opportunities or losing their jobs, while parents were unable to put their children to bed and many businesses saw a drastic cut in productivity.

Problems were caused by Network Rail failing to complete electrification work on time

But while Northern and TransPennine were faced with an impossible task, the report says neither did enough to communicate the scale of the disruption.

And while Northern put in an emergency timetable, which is due to end today, TransPennine did not, and performed poorly throughout the summer, with more than 15% of its trains late or cancelled on one of its routes.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s Department for Transport (DfT) came in for damning criticism.

The report said it had the power to stop the introduction of timetables but did not do so, and the department “did not have nearly enough control or oversight over the Northern Powerhouse railway network”.

Among the report’s recommendations is that TfN takes control of the £3bn Trans Pennine route upgrade and is responsible for all Northern transport spending.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said intervention by the Prime Minister was needed as he claimed there were no signs of improvement in services.

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.

Mr Burnham said: “There are only so many times that I can call on Chris Grayling to do his job and help rail passengers in the North. He has failed to deliver on his promise to make sorting out rail chaos here his top priority and that is why I feel have no choice but to ask the Prime Minister to intervene.”

George Osborne said: “This report sets out a clear message to Government – the Northern Powerhouse is crying out for more devolution.

“This is the very role we envisaged Transport for the North doing when we set them up; Northern leaders will support them in making sure the people of the Northern Powerhouse get the modern, connected network they deserve.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison, who co-wrote the report, said: “The bottom line is that this must never happen again.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “Whilst progress has been made to improve services for Northern passengers, the disruption they have experienced has been unacceptable and we must continue to see significant improvements.

“An independent inquiry has been launched to establish what went wrong and to ensure this does not happen again and, with Transport for the North, we have set out a comprehensive, industry-funded package of compensation for regular passengers.

“We continue to work with TfN and Network Rail to determine the best way to achieve major improvements for rail passengers between Manchester, Leeds and York, as part of the £3bn upgrade of the Trans-Pennine route being delivered between 2019 and 2024.”