It gave Transport Secretary Grant Shapps the power to maintain those services which key workers, like NHS staff, use each day as well as the scope to oversee other changes as the railways come to terms with these new realities.
However the one anomaly is so-called ‘open access operators’ like Hull Trains and Grand Central which also operates a number of services from parts of North and West Yorkshire to London.
As they’re not full franchises, they’re totally dependent on ticket sales to pay for their fleet. Yet, with services suspended and staff on furlough, the outlook is uncertain at best – will such services remain viable if passenger numbers have to be cut to take account of social distancing?
Yet, while the DfT stresses that it remains in contact with both firms, it would be helpful if Mr Shapps could provide the assurances that these operators, and MPs from all parties, have been requesting with growing urgency in recent days.
Not only does Grand Central provide Bradford, Brighouse, Mirfield, Pontefract, Thirsk and Northallerton with direct services to London, but Hull Trains has been key to the revival of East Yorkshire. Its importance to Hull cannot be under-estimated when it comes to attracting inward investment to the port city. Now Ministers need to act and show that they, too, recognise the integral value of Hull to the wider Northern Powerhouse.
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