The Rail industry’s repuation slid further downhill with the revelation today that reliability on the main Yorkshire to London route had hit a seven-year low since it was renationalised, and the region’s biggest operator compared to President Trump.
Punctuality on the East Coast Main Line, which connects York, Leeds and Doncaster to the capital, was worse under its new pulbicly-owned operator, LNER, than in any four-week period under its predecessor, newly-published figures showed.
Virgin Trains East Coast held the franchise from March 2015 until the end of June, but pulled out after admitting it had got its sums wrong.
It was the third private operator to fail to see out a contract on the line. GNER was stripped of the route in 2007 after its parent company hit financial difficulties, while National Express withdrew in 2009.
Today it emerged that just 62.6% of LNER services between June 24 and July 21 arrived within 10 minutes of their scheduled time. It was the worst punctuality figure for the route since 2010.
The company blamed “a number of external factors, many of which were beyond our immediate control”, including hot weather and the introduction of new timetables which caused disruption at Leeds.
A spokesman said: “Now that the transfer to LNER is complete we will bring a renewed focus to the operating detail of running the railway.”
Meanwhile, the region’s biggest train operator, Northern Rail, whose services have been dedimated by the botched timetables, was compared to the US president for having claimed that widespread cancellations on Sunday were caused by some staff not wanting to work.
Northern told passengers in a statement: “Some of our staff have made themselves unavailable for work on Sunday and operational teams have been working hard to make the best use of available staff.”
But Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, which has staged repeated strikes on Northern over the role of train guards, said the statement was “a twisting of words that is positively Trumpesque”.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union, Aslef, added: “Numerous times we have sought to put Sundays in the working week, which would have obviated this issue.
“The company, though, prefers to run on voluntary overtime rather than employ enough staff to operate the services it promised. Then it seeks to blame those who opt not to work their days off. That’s a bit rich.”
There was more misery for commuters this morning, as all services on a busy commuter route were halted during the rush hour because of a train blocking the line.
Passengers at Ilkley complained on Twitter about what one called “yet another broken down train”, adding: “Poor information about what’s happening. Yet you still have three revenue protection people at my station. Spend the money on maintenance.”
Another said: “I arrived at work two-and-a-half hours late. Even by Northern Rail’s standards this was terrible.
“There was no meaningful communication with customers. Why not retrain ‘revenue protection’ staff so they can drive and fix trains?”