A spokesman for Theresa May has said the ongoing massive disruption to Network Rail commuters is “totally unacceptable”, as pressure mounts on transport secretary Chris Grayling over his handling of the chaos.
Trains continue to be delayed or cancelled following the biggest train timetable change in decades, which came into force on 21 May.
Northern, which runs services across North of England, was forced to launch an emergency timetable on Monday, removing 165 trains – 6% of services.
Labour has said Grayling should resign and called the the chaos facing commuters using Northern and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) services a “complete failure” on his part.
In an interview on the World at One, Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said: “He should resign. But this prime minister is so enfeebled that she cannot dismiss him, so he’s not going to resign ... In ordinary times any self-respecting secretary of state would resign today, I have no doubt about it.”
Grayling was also heavily criticised by Sir Michael Fallon, the former deputy chair of the Conservative party, who said the new timetable’s introduction had been “a disaster” and he would be pressing the Transport Secretary on “how this ever happened in the first place”.
But despite the mounting criticism, Downing Street has insisted the prime minister has full confidence in the Transport Secretary.
The spokesman said Network Rail had been “too late” to finalise timetable changes, and as rail passengers faced a third week of massive disruption said the prime minister had “tremendous sympathy” with those who have experienced delays or disruptions to their journeys.
He said: “What we have seen has been totally unacceptable. The Transport Secretary is in constant talks with Network Rail and he has been clear to them that they were too late in finalising the timetable changes and that this must not happen again. The Transport Secretary I expect to update the House later today. Train companies are working to minimise disruption.”
GTR – which consists of Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express – has also launched a temporary timetable designed to help passengers “arrange their journeys with greater confidence”.
The measures have so far failed to stop the delays and disruptions. The number of trains which were delayed by more than 30 minutes, or cancelled by 12:30pm reached 69 for Northern and 102 for GTR, according to the trains.im website.
Areas affected include Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool and the Lakes Line between Oxenholme and Windermere, which has been cancelled for at least two weeks, leaving passengers forced to use replacement bus services.
When asked who was ultimately responsible for the proper running of the railways, the spokesman said Grayling would be giving an update later.
He said: “I don’t want to preempt that too much but he has been clear with Network Rail that he believes they were too late in finalising the timetable changes and it shouldn’t happen again.”
The spokesman confirmed that the prime minister has full confidence in the transport secretary.
Network rail has been approached for comment.