YP Letters: North’s rail fail damages the whole country

Commuters at Wakefield Westgate railway station as Northern Rail introduce a new timetable. Picture Scott Merrylees
Commuters at Wakefield Westgate railway station as Northern Rail introduce a new timetable. Picture Scott Merrylees
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From: Dr Alex Strickland, Liverpool.

I have read these pages on the debacle that has plagued our rail system over the last few weeks, and like others, I have lost more hours standing on platforms across the North than I care to count.

Commuters into Leeds and Manchester have long been used to suffering discomfort and safety issues, as passenger loadings escalate and new investment is thin on the ground. But things reached a new low.

It was all going so well. In 2011, the former Chancellor George Osborne made electrification of the trans-Pennine route a personal priority. In 2014, local authorities across the North worked hard to devise One North, the embryonic idea which was to become HS3/Northern Powerhouse Rail – a new system offering journey times of 30 minutes in the triangle between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield and times of 20 minutes between Manchester and Liverpool.

In 2015, the Government committed to achieving electrification on the present Manchester to York line by 2022 (although the Calder Valley route remained the poor relation). Transport for the North was set up, gained statutory status and, in 2016, franchise bidders such as Northern and Trans-Pennine Express were required to deliver better services. But by the end of 2017, the wheels had started to come off. Northern in particular were struggling to deliver their promises. Then the much-heralded promise for electrification of the trans-Pennine link (and indeed the Midland Main Line from Sheffield to St Pancras) was itself shelved by Mr Grayling – just a few short months after politicians had been despatched on the campaign trail to marginal constituencies around Manchester and Leeds to tell long-suffering commuters how important it was to deal with their plight.

Civic leaders like Andy Burnham and Judith Blake have worked tirelessly with Transport for the North and others. But if only Whitehall would realise – this is also the plight of the national economy too. Connectivity is vital for education, jobs, tourism, thriving towns and prosperous communities.

Civic leaders across the North of all party stripes and none have proved themselves to be thoroughly capable, committed, keen and forward-thinking.

They have a strong record of working with partners, solid political mandates and a good idea of what is required in their own areas. Is it too much to ask for our communities to be led by these people, or is the North once again to have to beg for the crumbs from the Whitehall table, while northern commuters crowd onto platforms wondering which service will be delayed or cancelled next?

From: Laurence J Sowden, Far Lane, Kettlewell.

NO ONE could possibly support rail firm Northern over its timetable fiasco. However, it appears whatever action they take they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

The Yorkshire Post has long campaigned for greater capacity on the trains. Logically – without serious consultation with Ryanair – they couldn’t possibly cram more people in existing stock. They have thus set out to lease longer trains and are now condemned because these trains are too long for some of the stations.

However, this is nothing new. Northern, when it had its two-car multiple units taken away for allegedly needy lines in the South, was given 50-year-old locomotives. Don’t laugh. These trains are much more comfortable than anything plying the Airedale or Wharfedale lines.

A simple announcement is made that you need to be in the front two coaches. The message is given again on departure from a station prior to the short platform stop and then again a couple of miles from the stop. Hardly confusing. However, this does require you take your mobile phone earplugs out and pay momentary attention.

As with most things, don’t knock it until you have tried it.

Hard words to live up to

From: R Spreadbury, Liversedge

I NOTE with some scepticism the oft-used phrase first used by the late Jo Cox in her maiden speech to the House of Commons, “We have more in common...”

Fine sentiments undoubtedly, but like all fine words, living by them is somewhat harder.

What an old cynic like 
me finds somewhat 
hypocritical, is that many 
people who trot out this phrase are the last to find commonality between themselves and say Trump and his supporters, or Jacob Rees-Mogg and other Brexiteers.

But, hey, I suppose that’s politics for you.

No cars, no customers

From: John Eoin Douglas, Edinburgh.

What was most obvious to me watching TV reports of the fall of the House of Fraser was that most of their soon-to-be-closed stores are situated in pedestrianised streets with no parking.

I haven’t shopped in my local department store in over 25 years due to the impossibility of getting my car within several hundred yards of the front door – preferring to frequent out-of-town malls with free and convenient parking.

It must be nice for the green anti-car lobby to smugly walk and cycle past the shuttered shops of our high streets – the death of which is largely due to their blinkered efforts.

NHS delivered excellent care

From: Jarvis Browning, Main Street, Fadmoor, York.

IS the NHS improving? We cannot fault the service and excellent care my wife received after her fall. Back home now after a hip fracture. Well done to NHS in Scarborough.