Protests mount as disruption goes on

TRANSPORT secretary Chris Grayling is locked in talks with Network Rail and operators over disruption to train services, which has now lasted for more than a week.

Protests have grown as once again Govia Thameslink routes were hit by cancellations after the Bank Holiday weekend, while up to one on three Northern trains have been cancelled, particularly in the north west.

Transport Focus has called for ‘generous’ compensation, while the RMT said its members were ‘bearing the brunt’ of public anger.

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Train operators need to be generous with the compensation, get back to running the timetable reliably, and making sure the information on stations and journey planners matches what is actually happening. Passengers’ patience is going to be tested quite sorely.

Chris Grayling has also been the focus of attention. He said: “I am in regular discussions with Network Rail, Northern and GTR. This morning I reiterated that disruption suffered by passengers is wholly unacceptable. I have been very clear with Network Rail that it was far too late in finalising planned timetable changes and this must not happen again.”

Govia Thameslink has been sending frequent messages about changes, but long-serving rail manager Sir Michael Holden Tweeted: “I’ve been in this industry some 43 years now and I can’t understand from this guff what service they are actually trying to run.”

Apologetic GTR said it hoped the problems would ease soon, after a changeover on 20 May which had involved the retiming of more than 3,000 trains. A spokesman said: “We are working on a recovery plan with rail industry partners. Meanwhile, as late notice changes continue to be made, we ask passengers to check train times on the day of travel. We expect disruption to ease over the coming month.”

The RMT has repeated its calls for both GTR and Northern to be taken back into public ownership.

RMT gemeral secretary Mick Cash said: “The vast majority of passengers know that the ongoing timetable problems in the wake of Meltdown Monday are down to the train companies and not the staff. But some lash out from sheer frustration.

"There is no excuse for that whatsoever and the union will not tolerate a situation where our members at the ‎sharp end are effectively being deployed as human shields by a remote and incompetent management.

“It’s time to sack these spivs who just see the railway as a one way ticket to the bank without a thought for passengers and staff.”

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