Regional services halted ‘as London trains prioritised’

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A policy to cut the number of late-running trains on the flagship East Coast Main Line route to London has had the knock-on effect of causing further disruption and delays for other rail users in Yorkshire, it is claimed.

Conservatives Kevin Hollinrake and Robert Goodwill have written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling about the ongoing delays and cancellations for passengers using TransPennine Express services to and from Manchester, Leeds, York, Malton, Filey and Scarborough.

UNDER FIRE: TransPennine Express has been criticised for regular delays and disruption over the summer across its Yorkshire services.

UNDER FIRE: TransPennine Express has been criticised for regular delays and disruption over the summer across its Yorkshire services.

They say matters have been made worse by a Network Rail policy that late-running east-west trains would not be able to stop at York station, put into place in order to “protect the operation of the East Coast Main Line”.

A letter from a TransPennine Express manager, seen by the YEP, says the policy introduced in mid-August meant Network Rail “refused to accept any train arriving East or West that is several minutes late” because of the number of late-running trains on the newly-formed London North Eastern Railway between the capital and Edinburgh.

Network Rail has denied there is any such policy at York station but says trains which are running on time are given priority, regardless of train operator, to stop delays accumulating further along the network.

The letter from TransPennine’s Regional Development Manager Graham Meiklejohn said the policy “overlooked the requirements of on-time trains” and “initially severely affected our operation”.

Mr Hollinrake said: “It is clear that there needs to be a more efficient collaborative approach to delivering services between Network Rail and the train operators. The whole situation needs to be urgently reviewed.”

Network Rail said: “Keeping trains running reliably and safely is our top priority and we work closely with all train operators on this and keeping disruption to a minimum for all passengers.”

TransPennine Express was among the operators whose services were badly affected by the botched introduction of a new timetable by Northern on May 20.

Both operators were heavily criticised for their response and were accused of not doing enough to communicate the scale of the disruption.

In July, 4.9 per cent of trains were very late or cancelled while a further 11.4 per cent trains were up to 30 minutes late. The operator’s performance has been improving since then.