Network Rail has let down the North as accountability vacuum grows – The Yorkshire Post says

Network Rail is being held to account for its part in train delays across the North.
Network Rail is being held to account for its part in train delays across the North.
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THE performance of rail operators Northern and TransPennine Express has, for some time now, been totally unacceptable and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is addressing this.

He will decide next week if services run by Arriva-owned Northern should be effectively renationalised – or a new short-term franchise drawn up while former British Airways boss Keith Williams completes a wider review into the railway industry.

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy promised to atone for the sins of the past when he addressed the Great Northern Conference in February last year.

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy promised to atone for the sins of the past when he addressed the Great Northern Conference in February last year.

TransPennine Express ordered to improve by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and leading Yorkshire entrepreneur

But even the most accomplished operators in the world would have struggled to run the trains on time when Network Rail’s improvements to outdated infrastructure have run months, if not years, behind schedule.

My challenge to TransPennine Express MD Leo Goodwin to meet passengers on Leeds Station and endure his poor services – Ajaz Ahmed

Not only has the knock-on effect been delays to the introduction of new rolling stock – drivers do have to undergo extensive training before operating new trains – but a wider loss of public confidence. And while Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy said the body would “atone for its sins” when he addressed the Great Northern Conference staged by The Yorkshire Post, the problems have persisted, even worsened, and he will both understand, and accept, the Office of Road and Rail’s formal investigation.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during his visit to Leeds this month.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during his visit to Leeds this month.

Northern rail action by Grant Shapps and Jake Berry is encouraging – The Yorkshire Post says

Yet this does also highlight the accountability vacuum which has emerged since the original decision was taken to separate the running of the rail infrastructure, like track and signalling, and day-to-day operation of trains. During his visit to Leeds earlier this month, Mr Shapps acknowledged that the industry was too fragmented and that this will be addressed by the Williams review.

But, in the meantime, commuters will be expecting Network Rail, in conjunction with train operators and others, to pull out all the stops to keep avoidable delays to a minimum so train operators – in whatever guise – can plan ahead with a greater degree of confidence and certainty.