Rush hour rail passengers in the north could be in for a painful commute home on Monday, with a total of 53 trains either fully or partially cancelled before 10am.
Services across Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and the Yorkshire region were all affected according to Northern Fail app, developed by one long-suffering commuter to document the disruption to the network, leaving hundreds of travellers delayed and frustrated.
Northern Rail was due to reinstate 75% of routes withdrawn after its new timetable caused severe disruption in May, and a major station in Liverpool was due to reopen after a facelift.
But the Trains.im website, which uses open rail data, reported 18% of services on the TransPennine route were either cancelled or more than 30 minutes late.
On south TransPennine routes, half of services were either late or cancelled and 40% of services between Preston and Scotland were running late.
In Liverpool, as the Department for Transport retweeted about the reopening of Lime Street station after an eight-week upgrade of the city’s main rail hub, passengers were bemoaning the fact their trains had not arrived.
aTobias1 tweeted: “First day back after two months of the Lime Street closures and the associated travel chaos and my train is cancelled ??????????”
Another commuter, @wretchedascrisp, complained about the cancellation of the 8.17am Urmston to Manchester Oxford Road, tweeting: “It’s ok it’s the summer holidays, not like anyone’s going to work today.”
He then tweeted a picture of a later train service – overcrowded with passengers.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said the Prime Minister’s intervention was needed as he claimed there were no signs of improvement in services, despite repeated calls for action from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
In a letter to Theresa May, he wrote that performance on Northern Rail services “continued to be poor” following Grayling’s statement in May that the issue was the number one priority for his department.
In response to the PM’s assertions she has “full confidence” in Grayling, Burnham said: “I don’t know how she can make that statement because we have got chaos on our railways.
“Where has he been? Why hasn’t he been dealing with that? This isn’t a new problem, the chaos goes back a long way, there is no sign of it ending.
“So it’s not good enough from my view for the Transport Secretary to say, it’s nothing to do with him, for the Prime Minister to say, she’s got full confidence in him.
“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.”
The former Labour cabinet minister said one issue is capacity for trains into central Manchester, which creates a “bottle neck” for services running through the city and beyond.
He added: “This time last year the Transport Secretary put on hold the programme to invest in more capacity in central Manchester.
“That’s why I say, he has got to accept responsibility for what has gone wrong.
“And while the Prime Minister may have confidence in him I certainly don’t.”
It came as a report by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) revealed a major impact on businesses, commuters and families, with former chancellor George Osborne calling for powers including spending to be devolved to Transport for the North.
It said that businesses had lost almost £38 million because of Northern Rail disruption, with the cost up to £1.3 million a day at its worst.
Over the entire period, using Northern Rail figures, 945,180 hours were lost to delays, an average of 22,504 per day.
Burnham pointed out that in the first three weeks of its emergency timetable, introduced in June, services in its central region arriving on time had declined to 77.2%, compared with 88.4% in the corresponding period last year.
Lancashire/Cumbria inter-urban services had 1,179 full or part cancellations, while Merseyside services into Manchester/Wigan and North Manchester services totalled 991 train cancellations.
The mayor said passengers were also “left in the lurch” as recently as Sunday when Northern emailed customers to inform them it expected about 47 services to be withdrawn, including from Liverpool to Manchester Airport, to ensure its trains were in the right depots for Monday, when it hoped to reintroduce most of its May 2018 timetabled services.
He said: “It is frankly outrageous for emails to be dispatched at 9pm on a Saturday night telling people that there will be a much-reduced service the following day. People heading to Manchester Airport to go on holiday will have been left stranded, as will others with work and family commitments.
“This is no way to run a railway and we cannot continue to put up with a rail service provided when the operators can be bothered.”
Last week, the leaders of Trafford Council and Tameside Council called for Grayling to be sacked.
The NPP report, Devolving our Railways, found that people had lost their jobs and missed out on opportunities to get one, with businesses suffering staff shortages and a drop in productivity.
It levelled criticism at rail firms but also at the Department for Transport and Network Rail.
Northern powerhouse minister Jake Berry branded the disruption “unacceptable”.
A government spokesman said: “The Rail North Partnership has accepted the rail industry’s recommendation to phase in services from Monday, when 75% of the Northern train services removed during the interim timetable will be reintroduced.
“This is in addition to further adjustments to timetables to improve reliability, so that passengers can better plan ahead.
“Andy Burnham sits on the board of Transport for the North, which jointly manages the Northern franchise through the Rail North Partnership.”
Asked if Grayling should lose his job, Burnham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Yes, ultimately, because he’s just not doing enough.”