Transport Secretary Chris Grayling faces fresh humiliation as inquiry is opened into this summer’s rail chaos

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) confirmed they would probe failings on Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Northern.

Experts will probe their communication with passengers before and after the introduction of new timetables which led to major disruption and tens of thousands stranded.

Both companies are suspected of breaching a condition of their operating licence.

This requires them to provide “appropriate, accurate and timely information” to enable passengers to plan journeys “with a reasonable degree of assurance”.

The May 20 timetable change was intended to deliver huge benefits to passengers as a result of major upgrades to the network, but instead saw services crippled in the north and south-east of England.

Thameslink and Northern cancelled up to 470 and 310 trains respectively each day during the disruption, which lasted several weeks.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers were badly let down when new timetables descended into chaos on some Thameslink and Northern routes.

“One thing that would have helped passengers work around these problems was accurate, timely and useful information – but in many cases that was not provided.

“It’s only right that the regulator investigates if these companies breached the passenger information obligations in their licence.”

The investigation is expected to be concluded by the end of next month.

An ORR spokesman added: “If ORR finds the companies in breach of their licence obligations, it could result in enforcement action such as a financial penalty.”

It came as rail services will be crippled again today because of strikes in the long-running row over guards on trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on South Western Railway will continue with a 48-hour walkout, while workers on Northern will stage their seventh consecutive Saturday stoppage.

Northern said it will only run around 30% of services, with very few trains running before 9am and after 6pm, while South Western said it will operate half its normal timetable.

Northern said it will not run any trains on some routes, while others will have a limited service, and all trains will be extremely busy.

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