Plans to abandon December timetable changes will bring "consistency" say coast rail experts

Blackpool rail passenger experts have said the latest trains set-back was not unexpected, but may deliver some consistency for commuters.

Tuesday, 10th July 2018, 1:36 pm
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:02 pm
Northern trains have been affected by the rail chaos

The Rail Delivery Group has announced that changes to timetables due to be made this December, will now be postponed.

Train firms are taking a “more cautious approach” after the chaos when the May timetable was brought in following the electrification problems.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer apologised for the delays and cancellations and said: “Working together, the industry is determined to learn the lessons from what went wrong.”

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Stephen Brookes, Blackpool-based rail champion said the postponement would at least allow passengers a period of stability so they can be confident of booking journeys particularly if they were elderly or disabled.

He said: “People’s confidence, particularly elderly or disabled travellers who may need assistance, has fallen 60 per cent because they cannot be sure that their train will be running.

"If they had tried to bring in the December timetable changes it would have been even worse.

"This should allow them to book with more confidence and give us a consistent timetable that people can believe in.

"They are getting back to basics in a way but they need to remember that there are passengers involved in all of this not just shareholders.

"The temporary reduced timetable we have at the moment is due to come to an end at the end of July and from then we should see a better service than before. We area still going to have some disruption between Preston, Bolton and Manchester but that should ease."

Paul Nettleton from the Blackpool and Fylde Rail Users Association said one major disappointment from the new cancellation was for the South Blackpool line.

He said: "For a number of years we have campaigned for the return of a winter Sunday service, after all the public don’t suddenly not use a train just because of the day of the week. About 18 months ago, we were advised by Northern that they were indeed bringing those trains back, so you can imagine how pleased we felt.

"Now, due to the utter chaos caused by these over ambitious timetable changes, it’s the passenger that’s missing out, and it doesn’t appear that these local improvements will happen, at least for a while.

"It’s just a great shame that with all the fantastic weather we’ve been having, it makes me wonder how many potential day trippers or longer stay visitors have actually taken the decision to stop at home because they couldn’t get here by train.

"I know hindsight is a wonderful thing but you only have to sit back and look at was being proposed. With so many draconian changes planned, it was more than a step too far, the system just couldn’t cope."

Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, the Government-owned company for managing Britain's rail infrastructure, said the industry has "scaled back its ambition" after taking into account "recent painful lessons".

He went on: "While there will still be new services introduced this December, other new services will now be introduced more gradually over the next few timetable changes to help smooth their introduction and maintain a reliable service for passengers and businesses alike."

The announcement means returning to confirming timetables 12 weeks ahead will take longer than planned, and is now not expected to happen until May next year.