NEWS
20/06/2018 12:20 BST | Updated 21/06/2018 07:08 BST

Chaos Until Christmas: Rail Timetable Delays Could Go On For Months

Further delays could be on the cards.

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Timetable changes in May led to thousands of commuters across the north and southeast being stranded - further timetable changes are due in December and May 2019

The unprecedented chaos on the railways that has left commuters despairing in recent months shows no sign of letting up, with delays and cancellations due to hit over Christmas too.

Timetable chaos in May, which left thousands of passengers across the north and south east of England stranded, could happen again in December and in May 2019, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said on Wednesday. 

Timetable changes are routinely made twice a year, but the most recent changes were the biggest in decades, with the next shake-up coming just in time for Christmas.

South Western, Great Western, Northern Rail, TransPennine Express, Govia Thameslink Railway and ScotRail are all expected to make significant changes to their service schedules in December.

But a Network Rail spokesman told HuffPost UK that the timetables due to be published in December may have to be revised in light of recent issues.

“While a large part of the base new timetable for December has already been completed, the industry is looking again at these plans in light of the experience of May,” he said.

“Our collective aim is to deliver a much better outcome for customers, with a high degree of confidence of a smooth introduction.”

According to The Times, the ORR is considering taking enforcement action against Network Rail over its handling of the process, which could lead to a fine being imposed on the state-funded company.

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Transport secretary Chris Grayling

The ORR has already launched an investigation into the earlier disruption

Rail bosses, from Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern are due to be grilled by MPs on Monday over why the introduction of the new timetable caused such widespread disruption.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling survived a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons over the railway chaos on Tuesday, with Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald claiming the “breach of faith and trust is so great that the Secretary of State’s credibility can never recover”.

Grayling said yesterday that rail season ticker holders impacted by timetable changes would be given the equivalent of a month’s compensation, with details of the offer expected next week.  

Meanwhile, passenger trains have returned on the Lakes Line, between Oxenholme and Windermere, after a heritage rail firm stepped in after Northern suspended services until July 2. 

In a campaign backed by Cumbrian MP Tim Farron, West Coast Railways (WCR) is to run trains on the line until Northern reinstates its services - suspended on June 4, when an emergency timetable was introduced to combat repeated delays and cancellations across the network.

Farron, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, said WCR’s intervention was not a “long-term solution” but “it demonstrates what you can do if you put your mind to it”.

The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, told the BBC on Monday that a three-coach heritage train was “full” during a trial run the previous day. 

“Between us we managed to get a good rail service, not a complete one, but a rail service running over the next couple of weeks starting properly this morning, in a way that the Department for Transport and Northern Rail and have not managed to do,” he added.

“It’s a reminder that if we give the rail franchise for our area to somebody who actually cares about it, we might get a decent service.”