An overwhelming majority of the public would support renationalising the railways amid cancellations, delays and complaints of poor service from private rail operators, a new poll reveals.
The exclusive survey for The Independent also found nearly six out of 10 people think that the privatisation of Britain’s railways has been a failure.
Pressure has been mounting on transport secretary Chris Grayling as thousands of commuters faced weeks of cancellations and delays, after sweeping timetable changes were brought in by Govia Thameslink Rail (GTR) and Northern Rail.
Theresa May branded the disruption “unacceptable” when she discussed the issue with her cabinet last week, increasing pressure on the transport secretary.
It also comes after the East Coast mainline was taken back under public control, as the troubled franchise agreement between Virgin Trains and Stagecoach had to be scrapped.
The BMG Research poll, which was conducted amid widespread rail chaos last week, found 64 per cent of voters would support bringing the railways back into public ownership, while just 19 per cent of people would oppose it.
And 56 per cent branded the privatisation of the railways a failure, with only 15 per cent of people saying it had been a success.
The poll found a major appetite for tougher sanctions against private rail firms, with 80 per cent backing the prospect of major fines and only 9 per cent opposing it.
Some 64 per cent believe the government has not properly held private firms to account over the quality of service they offer to the public, while only 20 per cent think rail companies have been reasonably scrutinised by ministers.
More than 15,000 trains have been cancelled or delayed since the timetable changes came into force in May, with some passengers complaining they were at risk of losing their jobs.
GTR was even forced to put on taxis to help teenagers get to school to sit their GCSEs in parts of Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.
Last week, Mr Grayling laid the blame for the disruption with rail firms, telling MPs: “The huge growth in passenger numbers in recent years demanded expanded routes, services and extra seats, but this timetable change has resulted instead in unacceptable disruption for the passengers who rely on these services.”
He added: “I am clear about the fact that the industry must and will be held to account for this, but my immediate priority is to ensure that we improve train services to an acceptable level as quickly as possible, and that will remain my priority.”
However,shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “He might want to blame Network Rail, but it is he who has failed in his responsibility to oversee it; the buck stops with him.
“What is more, he has burnt his bridges with the leadership of Network Rail, which can only have damaged his oversight of this process. Is not this a terrible failure of him and his role atop the system?”
RMT union accused Mr Grayling of leaving their drivers to be “hung out to dry as human shields for a failed Tory privatisation dogma”.
Network Rail, GTR and Northern have all apologised for the chaos, claiming they did not have enough time to prepare for the introduction of the new timetables because of delayed engineering works.
The findings come amid anger from MPs and passengers after outgoing Network Rail boss, Mark Carne, has been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s birthday honours.
The Department of Transport admitted the timing was “clearly unfortunate” with current issues.