THE Yorkshire Post is grateful to Jake Berry for calling on Network Rail to halt the closure of the East Coast Main Line due to the disruption that it will cause to spectators attending top sporting and cultural events over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Like this newspaper, which first revealed the scale of potential disruption last Saturday, he, too, is shocked at the inadequacy of Network Rail’s initial communication with others after the closure decision was taken on February 14 and subsequent contingency planning which appears to amount to little more than ‘don’t travel’.
As the Northern Powerhouse Minister says in his letter to the rail body’s chairman Sir Peter Hendy, tens of thousands of people were banking on the trains to attend international cricket, racing and rugby league events – the first Ashes Test at Headingley in a decade takes place on the weekend in question – as well as the Leeds Festival and Edinburgh Festival.
Yet, while such disregard for the people of the North has become normal in recent years, Mr Berry’s letter is indicative of the impact of the Power Up The North campaign which 33 newspapers, including this title, launched a month ago. Exasperated by the type of contemptuous decision-making exemplified by this farce, it is beginning – there is still much to do – to change the dynamics of the debate at Westminster.
More politicians, and civil servants, are recognising that the 15 million people who live and work here do matter, and Mr Berry’s letter is far more assertive than the holding response of Commons leader Mel Stride when Bradford MP Judith Cummins raised the East Coast issue in Parliament.
It should not be for The Yorkshire Post to review so-called strategic planning – now belatedly taking place. The East Coast line is part of a national infrastructure which extends beyond London. The Establishment must now recognise its responsibilities to the whole country. This is its chance.
As for Mr Berry: this is his chance to show why the Northern Powerhouse Minister role must be elevated to the Cabinet by the next Prime Minister. His test, meanwhile, is to keep up the pressure following his backing for this newspaper’s intervention and demonstrate to the North that he is taken seriously in Westminster.