Rail passengers in the North were suffering more misery despite the reintroduction of services as Theresa May rebuffed growing calls to sack Transport Secretary Chris Grayling amid continuing chaos.
Theresa May yesterday rebuffed growing calls to sack her embattled Transport Secretary Chris Grayling as rail passengers endured fresh misery on trains in the North.
The Prime Minister “understands the anger and frustration” of rail passengers in the North and wants to see “further significant improvements” to “unacceptable” services, her official spokesman told a regular Westminster briefing.
But calls from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to sack Mr Grayling were rejected by the PM’s spokesman, who said: “The Prime Minister has full confidence in the Transport Secretary.”
It came amid more chaos on rail routes, with TransPennine Express (TPE) the main culprit in terms of delayed and cancelled services.
According to performance statistics on the trains.im website, as of 5pm yesterday 24 per cent of TPE services were either very late or cancelled, with nearly 23 per cent marked as late. Only around half (53 per cent) were on time.
Northern, which reintroduced three quarters of services withdrawn after the meltdown which followed the introduction of a new timetable on May 20, fared better but still saw a dip in performance.
More than three quarters of its trains ran on time, but nearly a fifth (19 per cent) were late, and 5 per cent were very late or cancelled.
Mr Burnham called for the “chaos” to end and for the Transport Secretary’s job to face the axe.
Told of the Prime Minister’s “full confidence” in Mr Grayling, Mr Burnham responded: “Well I don’t know how she can make that statement because we have got chaos on our railways.
“He hasn’t been doing his job.
“If he had been doing his job northern commuters wouldn’t be putting up with the daily lottery of not knowing whether or not they are going to arrive at work on time.
“This isn’t a new problem, the chaos goes back a long way, there is no sign of it ending.
“Where has he been? Why hasn’t he been dealing with that?”
The Department for Transport said it would not comment on Ministerial diaries.
A Whitehall source said Mr Grayling was not on holiday and would be back at his desk on Tuesday but gave no details about his whereabouts on Monday.
Former Transport Secretary and Labour peer Lord Adonis told The Yorkshire Post: “It is unbelievable that Chris Grayling seems incapable of sorting anything out.”
And Labour MP for Bradford South Judith Cummins said: “It the Prime Minister really did understand the anger and frustration of rail passengers as she says, Chris Grayling would not longer be in his job.
“He has consistently let down the travelling public.”
Last week, the leaders of Trafford Council and Tameside Council called for Mr Grayling to be sacked.
David Brown, Managing Director at Northern said: “Our team has been working hard over the weekend to ensure our customers experience stable and reliable journeys today as we reinstate many services taken out as part of the interim timetable introduced in early June.
“We are pleased to say that, whilst we have experienced a few local operational issues, as we do every day, so far the vast majority of services are running to plan.”
A spokesperson for TransPennine Express said: “During Monday our services were affected by numerous infrastructure issues which saw the loss of signalling between Durham and Northallerton and numerous track circuit failures between Manchester and Sheffield. While Network Rail sought to repair their equipment as quickly as possible, these two incidents caused delays and cancellations to our services on those two routes, with a number of residual delays experienced once signalling and track circuits were working again. We apologise to customers affected by this disruption and are pressing Network Rail to ensure the routes we use are resilient.”
The fresh chaos came after a report from George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse Partnership found that the North’s economy took a £38m hit, according to the Department for
Transport’s own guidelines, after the botched introduction of new timetables caused chaos in May and June.
The report also revealed a major impact on businesses, commuters and families.