New compensation deal promised

Northern logoNorthern Rail is still failing passengers, weeks after an emergency timetable was introduced to deal with the near collapse of the system following the disastrous introduction of a planned new timetable.

Passengers continue to face overcrowding and late trains, but have at last been made aware of a specific compensation package brokered by Transport for the North.

Northern failed to hit punctuality targets for two years and has not run the expected number of trains on time in any month since June 2016. It also cancelled far many trains, missing its targets in all but one month since August 2017.

The Tory government, and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in particular, should be taking full responsibility for the misery because he was warned in advance. After a constituent raised concerns with me before the timetable changes came into effect, I asked what steps had been taken to ensure the planned new timetable would work.

Mr Grayling handed the question on to his rail minister Jo Johnson to answer. Mr Johnson would only say that it was the responsibility of the train operating company to get it right.

Now Mr Johnson has been dragged to a meeting of Transport for the North, which brings together 19 local transport authorities from across the region, to agree a compensation package that will be funded by the rail industry.

Mr Johnson has written to me to explain that ‘eligible passengers will receive a cash payment equivalent to up to one month’s travel.’ This will be in addition to standard compensation for delays and cancellations.

However, details of who will get what are still being worked out and only passengers with weekly, monthly or annual season tickets on ‘the worst affected routes who experienced severe disruption before and after the May timetable change’ will get the full amount.

Mr Grayling cannot be allowed to duck his responsibility to all the passengers hit by the rail chaos, including parents late to pick up children from schools and nurseries, staff threatened with losing their jobs and businesses unable to fully function due to staff shortages.

I am pressing for the details of the compensation scheme to be published in full as soon as possible, and for a longer-term strategy to improve rail services that must involve failing train companies facing the loss of franchises to operate.