Hands off the region’s trains

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HANDS off our trains. They are four simple words that Ministers need to acknowledge before their public transport policy in Yorkshire is derailed.

HANDS off our trains. They are four simple words that Ministers need to acknowledge before their public transport policy in Yorkshire is derailed.

The TransPennine Express linking Leeds, York and Huddersfield with towns and cities across the North is already blighted by chronic overcrowding in peak times. Its rolling stock is also among the most antiquated on the rail network.

Yet, despite this, there is a possibility that a number of carriages will be switched next year to Chiltern Railways, a route in the leafy Home Counties.

The reason is this. The carriages are actually owned by a company, called Porterbrook, which has already agreed to lease the trains in question to Chiltern Railways from next year.

The problem, however, is that this deal was actually signed with insufficient regard being given to the delay in the awarding of all future rail franchises, including the TransPennine Express, following the West Coast Main Line fiasco – a hold-up caused by the Department of Transport’s flawed procedures.

The consequence is Yorkshire train users having to endure even more cramped conditions along one of the country’s busiest railway routes unless Ministers come up with alternative arrangements.

This will not be easy. There is very little spare rolling stock in the country, apart from a handful of trains that have seen better days.

Even building new carriages is not as simple as it sounds – this takes time and it would make more sense to delay this process so the new trains are fully compatible with the TransPennine route when 
it is electrified.

Yet it will make a mockery of the Government’s attempts to overhaul Yorkshire’s railways if it does not order the Porterbrook deal to be put on hold. It is the very least that passengers deserve – after all, they’re blameless in this.

Dividing lines

Labour’s shoddy EU compromise

UNTIL NOW, Labour has tried to present a united front on Europe while, at the same time, exposing the fault lines within the Conservative Party as backbench Tories intensify their demands

for a referendum on Britain’s future membership of the EU.

This pretence is no longer applicable following the backlash to Ed Miliband’s keynote speech in which the Doncaster MP ruled out a public vote unless Brussels attempts to grab even more powers before 2020.

This position effectively leaves Labour endorsing the status quo while David Cameron is committed to holding a vote once he has attempted to re-negotiate the terms of the relationship between Westminster and Brussels.

He’s right to do so. The Europe of today is very different to the agreement that was struck in the 1970s before the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came crashing down. Yet, while it is vital that nothing is done to jeopardise the future prospects for British businesses in a global economy, it is also important that Parliament’s sovereignty is retained – voters are becoming weary of politicians blaming the EU for the financial drain on the public sector.

And this is why Mr Miliband’s policy position, endorsed by none other than Lord Mandelson, has all the hallmarks of a shoddy compromise. He’s managed to alienate a significant number of Labour MPs who actually want a public vote – while also frustrating those Europhiles who wanted their leader to rule out a referendum once and for all. In short, Mr Miliband has simply played into the hands of those who want Britain to leave the EU – quite an achievement for a pro-Europe party.

The best in show

The changing face of farming

ALREADY ENGLAND’s premier agricultural event, there is no danger of those behind the Great Yorkshire Show resting on their laurels.

The £10m investment in the Harrogate showground’s original 1960s exhibition hall is the largest project ever undertaken by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and signals its continued ambition to provide the best possible showcase for the county’s rural industries.

Today’s visitors expect better facilities than those of 50 years ago and, if farming is to reach out to new generations, the event must move with the times.

Such commitment stays true to the Society’s founding aim in 1837 “to hold an annual meeting for the exhibition of farming stock... and for the general promotion of agriculture”.

The enormous success the show has enjoyed in the years since then is emblematic of the strength of the region’s rural economy – and it is success upon which this investment will now surely build.