GRANT Shapps has already accepted that the performance of North’s railways is unacceptable.
Now the Cabinet Minister, due this week in Leeds for a key meeting of Transport for the North, needs to put his welcome words into immediate action.
If this means the Transport Secretary, and industry leaders, having to work late into the night, this is what long-suffering commuters, and this newspaper for one, expect. They shouldn’t leave until a plan is agreed.
Put simply, Yorkshire – and the North – should not have had to wait so long, and for rail services to become so scandalously bad, to prompt the urgency now being shown by Ministers.
Passengers are paying more for a service – fares increased by a further 2.7 per cent last week – when operators cannot honour contractual obligations with more than half of all trains now late.
It’s not just Northern as Mr Shapps considers stripping German-owned Arriva of its franchise. The performance of TransPennine Express, controlled by First Group, is worse.
And then there’s Network Rail – delays to engineering work have certainly had knock-on effects for the operators who have the worst reliability records in the UK.
Yet, while much does also hinge on separate reviews being undertaken into rail franchises, and also HS2, Mr Shapps should be using today’s visit to set out his expectations when it comes to leadership, responsibility and accountability.
It is now clear, from leaked documents, that there has been insufficient scrutiny of Northern, and others, over its failure to carry out promised improvements to key passenger services.
In short, industry leaders – and quangos like TfN – must now be held to account for the performance of the railways, starting now, or the now endemic ‘reward for failure’ culture will perpetuate still further, causing even greater damage to the region’s economy and reputation. Over to you Mr Shapps.