Northern Rail can't cope?

The government may have to intervene to save the stricken rail operator

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Is Northern Rail unable to cope?

By Joe Harker

It's fair to say the changes made to the railways in the UK have been an unmitigated disaster. Alterations to the timetables have left hundreds of trains delayed or cancelled, directly affecting thousands of journeys.

Among the train operators who have struggled, Northern Rail in particular has found it hard to cope with the changes. It has had to introduce a temporary timetable that removes 165 train services a day until the end of July, such is its inability to keep up.

David Brown, Managing Director of Northern Rail, apologised for the "very poor start" to the new timetable and attempted to reassure passengers that they would restore a modicum of control in a matter of days. He said: "We've been cancelling far too many trains, inconveniencing far too many people and we're truly sorry for that.

"It will take two or three days to bed in."

Part of the problem with the rail lines is that infrastructure upgrades were not completed on time. Therefore drivers were given new required training too late, leaving rail services stuck without the required number of drivers to run the trains.

Unions say train operators were warned over a year ago that drivers would need to receive new training while Transport Secretary Chris Grayling blames Network Rail for delays in upgrades.

This is somewhat similar to friendly fire from Grayling, as Network Rail is nationalised and effectively a part of the government. There have been calls for him to resign and he has been warned to sort it out or face the sack. Sir Michael Fallon told his fellow Tory MP to "get a grip" on the situation as the patience of commuters was "running very thin".

Much of the fallout is also landing on Northern Rail's head as The Guardian reports it could be banned from bidding for future franchises if it is found to be at fault for the current debacle. Grayling accused Northern Rail of being "not sufficiently prepared to manage a timetable change".

Newspapers in the north of England have banded together and presented a united front, demanding Prime Minister Theresa May accept responsibility for the utter shambles and get to work on fixing the problem. They also stated that the north had no confidence in Grayling, calling for him to be sacked and "replaced by a successor who understands the needs of the north".

The current rail problems are having a serious impact on businesses in the north as employees are struggling to get to work. Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said commuters should receive compensation and fare reductions by way of apology. Rail fares in the UK are some of the most expensive in Europe and commuters should not have to pay extortionate fees for trains that are so late or don't show up.

The message from the north to the government is "sort it out". Northern Rail appears to be incapable of doing so.

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