PASSENGERS will be “disappointed” by a decision to delay timetable changes says an industry watchdog.

Eight operators, including Northern Rail and TransPennine Express, will not be altering their timetables come December as previously expected.

The news comes as Northern Rail announced two further weekends of rail replacement bus services from Saturday, August 25 to Sunday, September 2.

The decision to hold off on changing the timetable in December may leave commuters feeling nothing has changed says Transport Focus chief Anthony Smith.

Despite this the move has been widely praised as “pragmatic” and “sensible” as it is an attempt to avoid the chaos caused by the timetable changes in May.

Mr Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Following the disruption and misery passengers have faced from the May timetable changes, the gradual introduction of timetable changes is a pragmatic step to help maintain a more dependable service for passengers.

“However long-suffering passengers who have put up with much inconvenience in the expectation of a better, more reliable, and more comfortable rail service will be disappointed that promised improvements may be delivered more slowly.

“What passengers will want now is a dependable plan, setting out exactly when Network Rail and train operators will get things back on track to restore trust in the service.”

Similarly, Jeff Davies of the Bolton Rail Users Group said: “Network Rail’s announcement that there will be fewer changes in the December timetable than we have just seen is welcome and sensible.

“Bolton’s concern however was that we haven’t just had the timetable problem, the electrification was delayed for the umpteenth time. This caused a train shortage and the delay of Bolton getting back its Scottish services.

“Network Rail just has to get this electrification finished now in time for the new timetable in December.”

Network Rail says it is still on track to deliver electrification on time.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which is an umbrella group for the rail operators, said: “The industry is determined to learn the lessons from what went wrong. After careful consideration, Network Rail and train operators are acting now to make sure people get a reliable service when the December timetable is introduced, which means some improvements will be delivered more slowly than originally planned.

“As part of our long-term plan to change and improve, we will still be introducing thousands of new carriages and delivering a 10 per cent increase in the number of trains running."