Minister brands railway disruption in Huntingdonshire ‘unacceptable’

Jonathan Djanogly, centre, with South East Cambridgeshire MP Lucy Frazer at a meeting with Govia Tha

Jonathan Djanogly, centre, with South East Cambridgeshire MP Lucy Frazer at a meeting with Govia Thameslink boss Patrick Verwer - Credit: Archant

The rail industry “collectively failed” passengers over the chaos which followed the wholesale timetable changes which were introduced in May, Jo Johnson, minister responsible for rail, has said.

In future the Department for Transport will insist on a gradual approach to timetable changes, rather than the overnight change which led to weeks of complaints about late-running trains.

Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly, who raised the plight of passengers from Huntingdon and St Neots affected by Govia Thameslink Railways with the secretary of state for transport, welcomed the response from Mr Johnson.

In his reply, Mr Johnson said: “The delays and cancellations your constituents have experienced on their journeys from St Neots and Huntingdon stations following the introduction of the new timetable have been unacceptable. I can only imagine the frustration that passengers have felt.

“Right now, my department’s over-riding priority is to restore the reliability of the service across the network.

“We are taking action to restore the problems as quickly as possible, to compensate passengers appropriately and to learn the lessons that will prevent this happening again in the future.”

Mr Johnson said it had been the most significant timetable change in a generation and some disruption had been expected at the beginning, but the scale of the problem had “outstripped” any expectation.

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He said Network Rail had been too late in finalising timetable changes and GTR had been insufficiently prepared to manage the change.

“The rail industry has collectively failed to deliver for the passengers it serves,” he said.

Mr Johnson said the process had been overseen for two years by the Industry Readiness Board, made up from Network Rail, the office of Rail and Road (ORR), train operators and an independent panel but these groups had told the secretary of state they had been given no information to suggest the changes should not go through as planned - with GTR assuring him three weeks before the implementation that they were ready.

He said an inquiry into what had happened was now under way, an interim timetable had been introduced and a compensation scheme was in hand.

Mr Johnson added: “We acknowledge that this is a small comfort to your constituents when things are not working as they should.

“Once we are through this difficult and challenging period, I am confident that we will have a better railway, fit for the future.”