Liam Sumpter posted a series of tweets in response to rail passenger Chris Gibbons, who complained of ‘another day, another cancelled train’, and said: “Can anyone explain how it can be due to lack of train crew, or train crew delayed?
“That’s such a weak, terrible excuse and quite frankly unacceptable.”
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Mr Sumpter said it was a ‘complicated issue’ but a ‘few tweets should suffice to explain’.
He also suggested poor planning had led to a number of cancellations – with trains left in Preston but drivers in Blackpool.
He tweeted: “We were handed back the Blackpool line from Network Rail three weeks late and decided to run some trains rather than keeping it closed to train our drivers.
“All drivers need to be re-trained as the infrastructure has fundamentally changed. As a result we are very thin on the ground and are having to develop a plan for units, for drivers and for conductors in crazy short timescales.
“This has led to some errors in the overall plan. When it comes to your train for example, the train was stabled at Preston overnight but the driver starts at Blackpool in the morning.
“Due to the training we don’t have a spare driver at Preston. So that has resulted in it starting from Preston and that’s why you have seen cancellations.
“I have asked that the planners try and get that train over to Blackpool tonight [Wednesday evening] so the driver can collect it in the morning and it can run as planned.
“I have also asked that they let me know if they have been able to do it. Their success will depend on how much they have to work-around overnight such as engineering work and any other late delays or faults.
“So, I appreciate this is far from ideal and am sorry for the disruption you are feeling but hopefully this explains it.
“The reality is the Blackpool line will take a little time to settle down but we’ll get back to a normal service as soon as possible.”
Mr Gibbons, tweeting yesterday, said he faced the ‘same woes again on the Poulton saga’, with a ‘mixed bag of messages from all train staff’.
Mr Sumpter replied saying he was ‘sorry’, and added: “The team had about 50 cancellations to manage last night and couldn’t get the unit over to Blackpool as hoped.
“It’s an evolving situation at they find fixes so that’s why it’s hard to advise staff on the ground of what’s happening in real time though I really feel for them and our passengers.
“We are very slowly improving it one issue at a time but it’s going to be several days at least before we can nail it all. Really sorry for this.”'©
A spokeswoman for Network Rail said it was not going to comment on Mr Sumpter’s remarks.
A spokesman for Northern said: “On Monday, we introduced an hourly service between Blackpool North and Preston to enable us to carry out essential driver training in preparation for the May timetable changes.
“During this first week of operation we have experienced some issues with our plan and are working to resolve these problems.
“Northern apologises for any confusion and inconvenience and our customers can be assured we are doing everything we can to provide the best possible service from Blackpool North, including the provision of rail replacement buses.
“In the meantime, a full rail service will continue to operate from Blackpool South.”