Union's 'lasting damage' warning over disrupted train services that have hit South Yorkshire

Dan Jarvis and a rail service.
Dan Jarvis and a rail service.

The rail industry will suffer "lasting and irreparable damage" if the crisis over cancellations and disruption to services is not tackled as a matter of urgency, a union has warned.

New timetable changes introduced by train operator Northern has seen a lack of drivers and cancelled services across the network leaving commuters fuming in South Yorkshire.

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The Rail, Maritime and Transport union said "ill-conceived" timetable changes, combined with staff shortages and the "incompetence" of private rail companies, have reduced services to "chaos."

The union warned that its members are facing increasing levels of abuse from passengers because of delays and cancellations.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "The daily chaos on Britain's railways is down to a toxic combination of corporate incompetence and political failure that can be traced directly to the door of the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

"Instead of trying to blame everyone other than himself and his private operators he should accept responsibility and go.

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"The constant attacks on the workforce and Network Rail, an organisation that Grayling has deliberately set out to undermine at every turn on ideological grounds, have to stop and we need a wholly new approach which sees our railways as a vital public service rather than a one-way ticket to the bank for greedy and incompetent train companies."

This comes after Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis laid into train operator Northern and said using the service was like "going back in time."

Mr Jarvis, who commutes from Barnsley into Sheffield as mayor, said he has experience the problems first hand and said the service at present "should've been consigned to the past."

The mayor was due to meet with Secretary of State Chris Grayling yesterday to see what the Government can do to improve the service.

He added that he was writing to Northern this week to air his concerns.

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Mr Grayling said in a letter to Yorkshire MPs that the level of disruption on Northern rail last week was "wholly unsatisfactory" and the scale of the chaos "far outstripped any expectation."

David Brown, managing director of Northern, said: “Our plans for modernisation are not all being delivered in the way we want. We are doing everything we can to minimise cancellations and delays and keep our customers informed.

"It has been difficult for many of our customers and I am truly sorry for this.

"There is urgent work to do to fully understand what did and didn’t work on all aspects of planning and delivery of the new timetable.

“We are committed to working with Network Rail to get things back on track as quickly as possible, and to deliver the services our customers expect and deserve.”