ONE year after catastrophic changes to rail timetables plunged train services across the North into unprecedented chaos, there will – understandably – be trepidation on the part of passengers ahead of this weekend’s changes and their consequences.
After all, the same industry leaders – including Transport Secretary Chris Grayling – who presided over last year’s shambles are still in post and supposedly overseeing the latest alterations to services.
Unlike 12 months ago when there was a complete disregard for travelling public, and cost of the resulting inconvenience, preparations do, at this stage, seem to have been more robust because of the relentless scrutiny of The Yorkshire Post, and others, on behalf of passengers.
If there are problems, the whole rail industry needs to admit to its mistakes straight away – and provide rail users with far better communication and compensation than they have done in the past – rather than taking its leader from Mr Grayling whose buck-passing and obfuscation remains without equal.
But the one saving grace, if it can be called that, is that the past year’s troubles – and reputational damage to the region – has brought national political and media attention to the North’s neglected railways and the need for a new era of investment.
And while it will take many years to advance Northern Powerhouse Rail – a £39bn scheme to connect the region’s major towns and cities – every local, regional and national politician is now on notice that they cannot treat transport here as an after-thought. Quite the opposite. It is key to the North’s economic and social prosperity – and it should not have taken last year’s turmoil, the culmination of decades of under-investment by successive governments, to change the terms of a debate which is even longer overdue than Mr Grayling’s departure.