‘Do it right’ plea in wake of festive rail chaos

GREATER accountability is needed to ensure chaotic scenes at London railway stations this festive period are not repeated in Yorkshire, a transport chief has claimed.

Chaos followed the overrun of works at King's Cross station last month

Over-running of engineering work by Network Rail led to the closure of King’s Cross and Paddington stations on Boxing Day, with more misery for travellers on Sunday as delays continued.

They were condemned by shadow transport secretary and Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher, who has demanded answers from ministers about why Network Rail failed to have robust contingencies, and said the Government “allowed” the shutdown to take place. An investigation into the delays has been launched by the Office for Rail Regulators.

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Network Rail apologised to passengers and chief executive Mark Carne decided not to take his bonus in the wake of the chaos, saying the company had “disappointed too many passengers”.

Now the chairman of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee, Coun James Lewis, has called on the Government to introduce greater accountability at Network Rail, and repeated calls for the devolution of northern rail franchises, saying local control of transport was “vital”.

“The Government and rail industry need to do it right,” he said. “Passengers were herded left, right and centre, not knowing what was going on.

“Thankfully we were spared the worst of the disruption but we have a really ambitious programme of improvements in Yorkshire are the moment, including new stations at Kirkstall Forge, Apperley and Low Moor, and the electrification of the Manchester - Huddersfield - Leeds line, they need to be managed right.”

While Network Rail have launched their own inquiry into disruption, Mr Dugher said it was time for ministers to “acknowledge their responsibilities for the rail chaos.”

He said: “There are many questions about what Ministers actually did in the weeks leading up to the recent rail chaos as it seems they were asleep on the job.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin had made clear he expects Network Rail to learn lessons from the past few days.

The spokesperson said: “Governance arrangements are in place to ensure it is properly accountable while also operationally independent.

“We are also working with leaders in the north to ensure their voice is heard as we further develop plans to boost the northern economy.”