WHEN NETWORK Rail announced last October that the East Coast Main Line would have to be closed for major engineering work, The Yorkshire Post set this challenge: “Keep disruption to a minimum. Plan now for King’s Cross closure.”
This newspaper’s editorial also said that “communication will be key” in the wake of disruption which undermined public trust – and Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy acknowledged this. “Message received,” he tweeted. If only.
Only now is it emerging that services between Yorkshire and London will begin and end at Peterborough over the August Bank Holiday – and organisers of international sporting and cultural events only recently became aware of this. They say it could not come at a worse time.
And it is even more galling after Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines admitted last month. “It has been a brutal couple of years. Rail passengers, particularly those in the North, have been bearing the brunt of some of the worst problems we have seen.”
However, despite this, the East Coast Supervisory Board – set up in August 2017 to improve communication between rail chiefs, train operators, passengers and the business and tourism sectors – has not met since November last year. This is damning.
Frankly, it is difficult to know what is more alarming – a glaring lack of awareness about the scale of the events being disrupted, a woefully flawed consultation or complacent emails from operator LNER advising people not to travel on the days in question.
Failings symptomatic of Chris Grayling’s inept mismanagement of the Department for Transport which is not fit for purpose, this country desperately needs a Transport Secretary capable of holding industry leaders to account and putting passengers, including tourists and leisure travellers, first.
The problem is it will be too late for the tens of thousands of people having to make alternative travel plans unless Network Rail admits its error – which is unlikely – or rearranges the work which is even more unlikely at this late stage.