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All eyes on trains as emergency timetable ends

One of the new trains Northern is set to bring to the region and which MP Paul Maynard wants to see in service as soon as possible
One of the new trains Northern is set to bring to the region and which MP Paul Maynard wants to see in service as soon as possible

Trains experts on the Fylde Coast have said they will be watching carefully as more services are brought back today as a temporary reduced timetable ends.

The emergency operation was brought in on June 4 after two weeks of chaos caused by the May timetable’s introduction on the back of rail upgrade work delays and a lack of driver training.

And now Network Rail has been ordered to take action after an investigation found systemic failings in the company’s management of timetable changes.

The Office of Rail and Road said this contributed to the widespread disruption in May when hundreds of Northern and Trans Pennine trains were cancelled or delayed. Now Network Rail has to provide a report to ORR by August 31.

ORR’s investigation into Network Rail’s timetable planning capability found that Network Rail did not implement best practice, evidenced by the need to rewrite the May 2018 timetable seven weeks after it sent the draft to industry in November 2017.

It said the knock-on effect of this was that timetables could not be finalised 12 weeks in advance. ORR’s first demand was the successful delivery of the December 2018 timetable.

Transport Focus Director David Sidebottom said: “Passengers want timetables finalised in good time – 12 weeks is the standard – so they can plan their trips with confidence and get the best-value Advance tickets.

“They then want the trains to run reliably. That simply hasn’t been happening on parts of the railway. Our research shows just how much of an impact both of these have had on passengers.”

Northern, which removed six per cent of services (168 a day) from its timetable on June 4, was reinstating 75 per cent of these from today, with the remaining 25 per cent in September.

Blackpool-based rail champion Stephen Brookes said: “After a few weeks of a very restricted service which has impacted particularly on older and disabled people as well as visitors I really hope that we will see Blackpool start to get the kind of service it deserves. I’ll certainly be watching and feeding back.”

Blackpool North MP Paul Maynard said: “While I welcome the resumption of the full timetable and the end of the bus operation between Blackpool and Preston I recognise there is still a lot more to be done.

“It is important Northern works hard to restore passenger confidence and to deliver the service Blackpool deserves. I want to see new trains, which have started to arrive in the UK, come into service as soon as possible.

"It is vital the next timetable change is implemented smoothly, meaning passengers are able to enjoy the full benefit of the £255m investment in Blackpool’s railway.

“Looking ahead Northern needs to deliver on the promise of new direct services from Blackpool and ensure long-standing links, such as the one between Blackpool and Leeds, are restored.”

A spokesperson for Transport for the North said, “Whilst we’re disappointed there was the need for an emergency timetable, its implementation did help reduce unplanned delays and cancellations.

"We’ve been clear all along that the rail industry should return to the full timetable as soon as possible, but must also provide a service where journeys can be planned with certainty. The rail industry has been proactive in proposing a phased reintroduction of the full timetable, which it believes has taken into account the concerns we have raised.

"We are monitoring the performance of both Northern and Trans-Pennine Express closely on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Both operators have committed to clearly communicating their service arrangements as the timetable is re-introduced and we would advise passengers to check their websites before travelling to ensure they have the latest information on services and train times.”