The boss of rail firm Northern has issued an apology to passengers, admitting services in the past few weeks have not been good enough and blamed the chaos on the North of England’s railways on the short notice the firm was given to implement new timetables.
David Brown, chief executive of Northern, told the Lancashire Post the disruption seen on the railways was due to “circumstances outside of our control” and conceded that it would take some time to rebuild trust with its customers.
Mr Brown (pictured below) also said that the whole railway industry needed to learn lessons from the debacle and that a “whole system” approach was needed to avoid similar disruption in the future.
The introduction of new timetables led to thousands of cancelled or delayed trains and Northern was forced to introduce an interim timetable with reduced service levels in order to keep the trains moving.
The Post was one of 25 newspapers in the north to join forces to put pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to take action after the unprecedented problems across Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire that has seen hundreds of trains cancelled throughout May and June.
Mr Brown said: “We are really sorry for the level of service that we have provided since the new timetable came in.
“It is not the sort of service that we want to operate but it has been caused by circumstances outside of our control.
“We are working hard to make the interim timetable work so we can fix it.”
The disruption has been due in Mr Brown’s view to the short notice it was given to introduce its new timetable, saying that as late as the evening before its introduction it was still finalising driver schedules.
“The first two weeks of the May timetable didn’t go very well at all and that was all down to the short notice,” he said.
“We are at the end of a planning process that normally takes nine or 10 months and actually we had to write the timetable in three to four months. Clearly there are a number of reviews in place but at the root cause of this is changes to the infrastructure that we thought we were going to have to plan the timetable around and then the need to rewrite that in really short order.
“That’s not a blame that it is just a fact. It has been incredibly challenging.
“When the infrastructure is delayed that gives you further training requirements, it means you have to rewrite the timetable and you don’t actually know the scale of consequences until the end of the process.”