This necessity is even more urgent after the latest performance figures, for the four-week period from September 15 to October 12, confirm that reliability has reached a new low after just 53.5 per cent of Northern’s trains were on time.
The company’s worst performance since last December, it is compounded by confirmation that the antiquated Pacer trains, due to be scrapped this year, will stay in service next year because of hold-ups with the introduction of long-overdue new rolling stock.
And while the political leaders of Sheffield City Region, Leeds and Greater Manchester – Dan Jarvis, Judith Blake and Andy Burnham respectively – want additional recompense for all those passengers who will have to continue enduring the Pacers, services are so poor that, frankly, all travellers, including season-ticket holders, deserve better than this when just one in two trains reach their destination on time.
The one glimmer of hope is the acknowledgement by Grant Shapps, the relatively new Transport Secretary, that Northern’s performance is unacceptable as he explores the possibility of nationalising the franchise.
However he needs to act sooner rather than later if the Government – and rail industry – is to avoid causing lasting damage to this region’s economy at a time when Ministers are committed to turbo-charging the Northern Powerhouse.