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Grayling: Rail timetable chaos a real shame… and I’m sorry

CHRIS GRAYLING apologised to MPs yesterday for the rail chaos caused by a bungled timetable shake-up in May.

The transport secretary (above) said he was ‘really sorry’ as he was asked to explain his role in the fiasco, which led to 770 trains a day being cancelled.

Thousands of passengers travelling on Govia’s Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern services were affected.

Appearing before the Commons transport committee, Mr Grayling said: ‘The frustration this summer is that the change was supposed to be a positive, and if you look now you have longer trains, thousands of extra seats, extra trains in the peak hours.

‘It is just a real, real shame, and I am really sorry, it started so badly.’

Mr Grayling faced criticism during the summer as he tried to distance himself from the debacle by saying ‘I don’t run the railways’.

Challenged over his role, he told the committee: ‘I am also responsible for the success or failings of my department, as a secretary of state I take responsibility for that. If I am guilty of anything it is not moving fast enough to deliver change.’

He said that railways need ‘significant change’ to push through more integration of Britain’s fragmented rail network.

During the chaos Mr Grayling faced calls to quit, while a damning report said ministers, rail bosses and regulators were all to blame. The Office of Rail and Road blamed a lack of ‘responsibility and accountability’ for the timetable overhaul.

Billed as the biggest ever, it involved changing almost half of services to improve reliability. But passengers endured weeks of disruption and thousands of delays and cancellations.

■ SOUTH Western Railways passengers begin five days of disruption today as union members carry out another series of strikes. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union is in dispute with the company over what it says are plans to limit guards on trains. But SWR says it will have more guards not fewer. Around a third of services will be affected between today and Friday, with half of services hit on Saturday. The RMT also plans strikes on Saturdays in November, which will disrupt rugby fans going to Twickenham.