Northern rail executive’s 18 per cent pay rise is yet another insult to passengers - Tom Richmond

How can Northern rail executives qualify for massive above-inflation salary increases – and bonuses – when the services they preside over appear to be getting worse by the day and are no longer financially viable?

A question which goes to the heart of the ongoing review into rail franchises, it is fundamental to transport giant Arriva after the financial position of its troubled Northern franchise became so perilous that the Government is having to intervene.

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As Transport Secretary Grant Shapps considers his options, it is reported – and not denied – that Dr Manfred Rudhart, chief executive of the Arriva Group, has received a 18 per cent increase from £1.1m to £1.34m.

Arriva-owned Northern is on the brink of losing its rail franchise.

This at a time when the number of trains on time fell in 2019 from 60 per cent to a lousy 40 per cent.

And is Dr Rudhart actually aware of the state of his firm’s rail services here? Even plans to overhaul the toilets so human waste is no longer discharged on to the tracks is behind schedule according to leaked (no pun intended) reports and the cubicles may have to be closed if deadlines are missed.

On behalf of readers of The Yorkshire Post, six questions were sent to Dr Rudhart’s corporate team this week:

There is mounting anger over the state of the region's rail services.

1. How can this increase be justified when performance on Northern rail services has deteriorated so markedly?

2. To what extent have corporate salaries increased in the past year and should this money not be spent on improving your rail services?

3. How many times has Dr Rudhart travelled on a Northern service in the past year?

4. How many times has he met and spoken with passengers?

Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee is a sporting role model like no other.

5. What is his message to them about the standard of his company’s service?

6. When can passengers expect an 18 per cent improvement in reliability?

The German-owned firm – in response – could not even confirm (or deny) if Dr Rudhart had travelled on the rail network here.

“We don’t comment on the remuneration packages of our leadership team. It’s worth stressing that Arriva’s CEO is not just responsible for Northern: he’s responsible for a 5.4 billion Euro passenger transport business with operations in 14 countries,” said senior communications manager Phil Curry.

“In the UK alone, we operate Northern, Chiltern, London Overground, Grand Central and CrossCountry. One in five rail journeys is taken on a service operated by Arriva and we regularly have some of the leading customer satisfaction and punctuality scores.”

Comments which show how out of touch industry leaders are with the daily experiences of passengers, it’s even more reason that accountability, leadership, responsibility and scrutiny are fundamental to future reforms of the rail network.

And, if Dr Rudhart still doesn’t get it, I suggest he comes to Yorkshire, catches one of the old Pacer trains that his firm is still operating here, and talks to passengers.

Then he might – just – realise that his 18 per cent salary increase was one insult too many.

I NEVER knew 10 Downing Street had an official responsible for the North under Theresa May’s government until Nicola Headlam featured in the Sunday papers last weekend. She made that much of an impression.

More so, I also didn’t realise that she had 27 “brilliant and dedicated” civil servants reporting to her. But what I 
find surprising, given her claim that Mrs May’s administration “didn’t care about the North”, why civil servants – and Ministers – were so slow to acknowledge this.

The only person to do so was leading economist Jim O’Neill, one of the original architects of the Northern Powerhouse, who resigned as a Treasury minister within the first months of Mrs May coming to power.

As for Ms Headlam and the rest, they now need to explain, with the benefit of hindsight, why they didn’t make their misgivings clearer at the time – the consequence is three unnecessary years of delay and dither.

PLEASE can one of Yorkshire’s famed engineers do us all a favour in this era of climate change – and help Leeds City Council (and potentially other town halls) to programme their traffic lights better.

The latest reprogramming means motorists travelling in the same direction have to wait endlessly for the lights to turn green – even though there is no other traffic in the vicinity.

All this does is add unnecessary emissions to the atmosphere – one Leeds family recently told a national newspaper how they had been forced to move home because they believed the roads were damaging their health.

Outside of peak periods, it must be possible to fit sensors on to traffic lights so they respond more readily to approaching vehicles.

Who knows, anyone coming up with a solution could even be nominated for a CBE to go with the gongs awarded to the council’s leader and chief executive in recent times?

IT will take one of the greatest sporting and physical performances of all time for Alistair Brownlee to win a historic third Olympic title in the triathlon later this year – the 31-year-old has had more injuries than wins in recent years.

Yet the fact that this down-to-earth Yorkshireman is to attempt to qualify for Team GB – and his place is not assured – shows a ‘‘can do’’ spirit that his home county should embrace.

From sport to politics, business or community work, it’s better to try, and fail, than fail not to try.