Chris Grayling has announced an inquiry into whether train companies were at fault for the timetable chaos affecting thousands of passengers as the Transport Secretary faced calls to resign in the House of Commons.
Trains continue to be delayed following the biggest train timetable change in decades amid mass cancellations on Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
In Parliament, the minister said “he will not hold back” in taking action against the industry if they are not meeting their contractural obligations.
A “compensation scheme” will be introduced for passengers on affected routes, he said, adding a “full inquiry” into the chaos will be led by the Office of Rail and Road.
But Grayling faced stinging personal criticism from MPs amid accusations he had been “asleep at the wheel” in dealing with rail disruptions, with even Tory MPs being critical.
Ex-Cabinet minister Sir Michael Fallon said two villages in his constituency were virtually cut-off, and said they were not experiencing “normal life”.
Sir Nicholas Soames, a prominent backbencher, added the situation is “an absolute disaster and must be put right”, and suggested the industry readiness board should be “taken quietly outside and disposed of”.
Conservative former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers said the situation was “utterly unacceptable” and urged for the problems to be fixed “in a matter of days, not weeks”.
Grayling told the Commons: “The rail industry has collectively failed to deliver for the passengers it serves.
“It’s right that the industry has apologised for the situation that we are currently in and that we learn the lessons for the future.
“But right now the focus should be on restoring reliability of their service to passengers.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald told MPs that if Theresa May were “not so enfeebled” Grayling would have been sacked.
McDonald concluded by telling Grayling to “do the right thing and step aside”, drawing cries from the Labour benches of “resign, resign”.
McDonald said: “Isn’t the reality that this Secretary of State has been asleep at the wheel and this is just the latest episode in a series of rail management failures on his watch?”
Labour’s Gavin Shuker (Luton South) said Grayling was in “deep trouble” while Labour’s Chuka Umunna (Streatham) labelled the Transport Secretary “utterly pointless”.
Labour’s Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) said passengers have “lost faith” in Grayling, adding: “Isn’t it about time he stepped aside and allowed someone else to do the job who can fix this problem?”