Tom Richmond: A clear signal, so why isn’t rail upgrade now on track?

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling campaigning in Wakefield this week.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling campaigning in Wakefield this week.
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“WE made promises and we endeavour to keep our promises.” So said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling during a campaign visit to Wakefield this week when he reaffirmed the Tory party’s commitment to overhauling the region’s railway infrastructure.

He may believe these words – but the Cabinet minister forgets that David Cameron and George Osborne pledged to prioritise the upgrading of the Leeds to Manchester line during the 2015 campaign before the electrification scheme was ‘paused’ after polling day.

This is why it is disappointing that Mr Grayling – and the Tory party – have, so far, not taken up the challenge set out in The Yorkshire Post’s editorial on Tuesday following his visit, despite vague promises 48 hours later of a new rail ombudsman to adjudicate over poor performance.

Noting the ambition behind Mr Grayling’s speech to Leeds Chamber of Commerce in January, this newspaper asked: “When do you expect the Leeds to Manchester line to be electrified and when will the North’s major towns and cities have peak-time services to rival London and the South East?”

The editorial concluded: “They’re not unreasonable questions to ask during an election.”

As readers will know, rush-hour rail services are dangerously overcrowded because of decades of under-investment and the Department for Transport refuses to provide answers regarding the upgrade of the trans-Pennine route.

If this was Mr Grayling’s commuter route from Epsom to London Waterloo, or any other scheme in the South East, the Minister would have offered a water-tight promise. He now needs to do the same here – no ifs, no buts – to show that Theresa May is genuinely committed to a One Nation vision.

Over to you Mr Grayling. Just don’t leave it as late as the trains.

IN attempting to be balanced with its political coverage, is the BBC failing to differentiate fact from fiction? Its distinguished former war correspondent Martin Bell thinks so.

In his new memoir Death of News, Reflections of a Grade B Reporter, the ‘man in the white suit’ believes “formulaic even-handedness” distorted coverage of last year’s EU referendum with a return to “the old curse of on-the-one-hand-this-on-the-other-hand-that journalism”.

He adds: “There was neither insight nor assessment, but only balance, timed by the stopwatch. Truth and flasehood, those who knew what they were talking about and those who did not, were given equal time.

“The broadcasts were therefore meaningless. The result was a feast of unreason and an outcome deeply damaging to the national interest.”

Why does this matter? Labour is promising the earth in the current election campaign safe in the knowledge that it has to be treated by broadcasters as a Government-in-waiting. Because of this, the campaign could be closer than many in the Tory camp envisaged.

THANKS to Business Secretary Greg Clark for justifying my call – last week – for the next Government to be a champion of consumers. His admission this week, as the Tories unveiled an energy price cap, that he had never attempted to switch supplier because it was “quite a hassle to do so” proved my point. If the system was transparent, state intervention would not be necessary.

DESPITE being a vicar’s daughter, and practising Christian, Theresa May had clearly not read the Archbishop of York’s admonishment of those politicians who talk about “ordinary” families when every individual, he argues, has extraordinary qualities that leaders often dismiss.

Speaking to Tory candidates in York, Dr John Sentamu’s spiritual seat, the Prime Minister defended the Tory party’s proposed energy cap because it will benefit “ordinary hardworking families”.

She’s also resembling a one woman team – has anyone seen the Chancellor, Home Secetary or Foreign Secretary?

TALKING of York, Rachael Maskell was happy to appear at Wednesday night’s election rally alongside Jeremy Corbyn. Yet she resigned as Shadow Environment Secretary in February because she disagreed with her leader’s decision to back the triggering of Brexit’s Article 50.

If she’s returned in York Central, will she serve in Mr Corbyn’s top team or will she be one of the 100 Labour MPs threatening to sit as Independents until he quits? Voters have a right to know.

AT least Tory candidates are happy to be in the Prime Minister’s company. I’m not sure what Andy Burnham found more embarrassing after being elected as Greater Manchester’s first ever metro-mayor – two returning officers referring to him as the ‘Labour and Conservative’ candidate or a clearly excruciating hand-shake with Jeremy Corbyn days later.

He’s not alone. Shadow cabinet minister Sarah Champion, seeking re-election in Rotherham, refused to say whether her campaign paraphernalia would include a photo of Mr Corbyn. If her support is so lukewarm, why should the rest of the country trust her leader?

MENTION of Sarah Champion reminds me that she had the temerity to accuse Theresa May of presiding over a soundbite election before parroting Labour’s ‘for the many, not the few’ mantra. When this was pointed out, she said the party’s slogan was “a commitment”. I wasn’t convinced.

INTERESTING to note the warmth of Jeremy Corbyn’s tribute to Leeds Council leader Judith Blake when he visited the city when he mentioned his visits here at the height of the floods – and how the region wants rain as the river Wharfe runs dry in the Dales. How ironic.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk