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‘We’ve had enough of blame game – just fix it’

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Chris Grayling and Gordon Marsden MP. Main picture, a traveller waits for a train. Inset, the departures board shows more delays
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Chris Grayling and Gordon Marsden MP. Main picture, a traveller waits for a train. Inset, the departures board shows more delays

A Blackpool MP says he has had enough of the blame game over the crisis on Lancashire’s railways – he just wants the chaos to end.

Gordon Marsden, who represents Blackpool South, quizzed Northern’s regional director, Sharon Keith, about the state of services in the county after days of cancellations, delayed trains and reduced timetables.

At the same time, another Lancashire MP spent 45 minutes grilling under-fire Transport Secretary Chris Grayling about the crisis.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the MP for Chorley said he left the Minister with no doubts about the anger of passengers.

Mr Marsden told the Gazette: “I told both Northern and Network Rail that we were all fed up of them basically blaming each other for the problems.

“What we need is straight forward information on what is happening now, specifically about why it is that the Blackpool South line was singled out for strong cuts given that there was only a hourly service there anyway and why it is that, on top of that, there have been further cancellations of trains on that route despite the reduced timetable?

“I asked for information on that within the next 48 hours otherwise I said I would be tabling Parliamentary Questions.”

He also raised concerns over the fact rail replacement buses are not fully accessible for disabled people.

He added: “She confirmed that the replacement buses would still be in use until the end of June at least.

“I again asked for clarity on the disable access within 48 hours.”

Deputy Speaker of the Commons, Sir Lindsay, meanwhile says he told the Transport Secretary in plain English about how emotions were running high.

“In fairness to him he listened,” said Sir Lindsay, Deputy Speaker of the Commons. “He wanted to hear my views, so I told him straight.

“I asked him why we have not taken the franchise off Northern. This company seems incapable of running a service, so in my view we should take it off them.”

More than 60 MPs whose constituents have been badly hit by the Northern timetable turmoil demanded to see the Minister after he finally announced on Monday there would be compensation for commuters and an inquiry into what has gone wrong.

Only a handful managed to see him, with Sir Lindsay getting “the best part of three-quarters of an hour.”

“He came to my office,” he said. “We went through the issues and what can be done.

“Let’s face it, this is complete chaos. We have got to get more trains in.

“They (Northern) just keep changing the timetable to the lowest possible level, so at some point it will work. But that doesn’t help people who rely on the train network to get to work, school and university.

“I told him the problems facing my constituents in Chorley. It is having a major impact on the travelling public. And I said, ‘If you think it’s bad now, what is it going to be like at the peak tourism period?’ Extra demand will put even more pressure on the trains.

“We had a very thorough discussion. But in the end we won’t sort this problem out unless we take some sort of drastic action.

“Members on all sides of the House are demanding just what I am demanding. We want him to take action.

“It’s up to him if he wants to listen. But the bottom line is we have to resolve this.”

Commuters

l Rob Lowe uses the trains to get to work and “cannot bear it”.

He said: “I think like a lot of rail-users at the moment who have some flexibility, then I’ve been trying to keep my travel down to a minimum.

The Northern rail services have been very unreliable. My journey time has increased by 25 per cent every day because of the lack of a direct service to Manchester Oxford Road.

l Katie Twomey, a lecturer at the University of Manchester, commutes to work and described the current situation as “ incredibly stressful and extremely tiring”.

She said: “I’ve been commuting from Lancaster to Manchester since September 2017. The Northern service has always been unreliable, with late trains and cancellations commonplace.

“However since the introduction of the new timetables in May, the service is so unreliable my commute is frequently five or more hours a day.

“I have not managed to catch a single on-time Northern service in the past month.

“Problems with dangerous overcrowding have worsened due to the increases in cancellations - the fact that the majority of these are due to a lack of staff - is appalling.

“I know some of my fellow passengers are at risk of losing their jobs because they are unable to get to work on time, if at all, and several I have spoken to are considering moving away.”

Sign petition

This week the Gazette joined forces with a host of other titles across the North to demand action to fix our broken railways.

You can add your voice to the call for our Government to step in give the region the power it needs to get our trains back on track by signing the petition.

To sign, visit: www.change.org/p/prime-minister-end-the-northern-rail-nightmare-give-us-the-powerhouse-you-promised