Chris Grayling has again insisted that the rail industry is collectively to blame for the recent rail timetable chaos but a new inquiry by MPs will also examine the role of his department.
The transport secretary has met more than 50 MPs whose constituents were affected by the disruption and repeated claims that both Network Rail and train operators – rather than the Government – were at fault.
On Monday, Mr Grayling told the Commons that the Office of Rail and Road would carry out the Government's inquiry into the failure to implement a new timetable introduced last month.
He also met ‘every MP who requested a meeting to discuss the difficulties faced by their constituents on routes operated by Northern Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway’, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.
According to DfT officials, the transport secretary ‘made clear that the rail industry had collectively failed the passengers it serves and that train companies had not raised any warning that they were not properly prepared for the timetable change’.
Officials said that ministers ‘took immediate action on this issue once problems became clear as the timetable came into effect on 20 May’.
Mr Grayling said: ‘I have listened to MPs and share their concerns that the industry has badly failed its passengers. As I made clear, I will not hesitate to take serious action if operators are found to be in breach of their franchise agreement.
‘The experiences and frustrations of passengers will be front and centre of my daily discussions with the industry, and we are committed to ensuring they are rightly compensated for the disruption they have experienced.’
Officials said that details on compensation for passengers ‘will be set out by the industry soon’, adding that Mr Grayling ‘has been clear that should the inquiry find evidence of negligent behaviour he will not hesitate in taking action – which could include stripping operators of the franchise’.
Lilian Greenwood MP (pictured), chair of the Commons Transport Committee, said: ‘Passengers continue to suffer from terrible disruption to their train services, particularly on Northern and GTR services.
‘My Committee is launching an inquiry into the May 2018 timetable change; we will begin by questioning Northern, GTR and Network Rail but plan to take further evidence, including from the Department for Transport, so that we properly understand why the introduction of the new timetable has gone so badly wrong, what is being done to put it right and the steps needed to prevent this happening again.
‘The Secretary of State has said there have been “major failures” - we want to unpick this mess and understand how it can be prevented from occurring in December, when another timetable change is due.’