RAIL chiefs were slammed over May’s timetable fiasco at a fiery meeting today, with one councillor comparing the plan to a popular work of fiction.

Members of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, which scrutinises transport services in the region, grilled a representative of Transport for the North (TfN) – an arm of government which is responsible for transport strategy in the north of England.

The meeting followed problems which started in May when new rail timetables were introduced in Yorkshire and the North West – but there were not enough drivers available to fulfil the services.

TfN’s David Hoggarth told the meeting that operators Northern and Transpennine Express were putting a £1.5bn investment into the region. This would include money for new trains and infrastructure.

On the timetabling problems, he said: “At one point it was looking as though it was deliverable. In the last few days when the timetable came in it looked otherwise.

“In Transport for the North’s view this was completely unacceptable.”

He added TfN was doing hourly monitoring on services, and said they were “understanding where the operators needed to be pushed to do more.”

But some committee members responded angrily.

Bradford councillor Ian Greenwood (Lab, Bolton and Undercliffe) said: “We had a completely avoidable shambolic mess.

“We have a load of issues where the buck is passed between different parties and nobody pays the price for what was completely predictable.

“The timetable was as realistic as Harry Potter.

“It’s an utter disgrace – heads should be rolling, but they won’t because everyone is busy blaming each other.”

Leeds councillor Michael Lyons said: “The public must be absolutely livid – you are saying that you don’t employ enough people, sooner or later the public might not be employing you.”

Leader of Wakefield City Council Peter Box said: “This was a disaster that was wholly avoidable – I don’t accept what you are saying.

“You claim Northern could not anticipate what happened but you could. You are responsible for timetabling, but there weren’t sufficient drivers.

“It didn’t take a lot of working out that there weren’t enough drivers available.”

Mr Hoggarth responded: “We tried to make sure the timetable was deliverable and properly resourced. We didn’t have any advanced information that it wasn’t going to be deliverable. There is an industry review looking at the sequence of events to see how we ended up with what we ended up with.”