FOR once, the latest cancellations and chaos on the region’s railways was caused by an act of nature rather than political ineptitude. However the disruption that yesterday’s lightning strikes caused to Yorkshire’s creaking network was emblematic of the summer of discontent being endured by travel-weary passengers.
Punctuality and reliability levels were unacceptably low before services went into meltdown as a result of timetable changes – and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s call this week for his many critics to stop talking down the North, a crass challenge issued during a visit to Doncaster delayed by late-running trains, simply showed that he does not comprehend the travelling public’s simmering anger.
Far from undermining the North’s economy, The Yorkshire Post – and Mr Grayling’s many opponents from all spheres of life – want the region to flourish and recognise that this area needs much improved road and rail links if it is to fulfil its economic potential for the benefit of the whole country.
At least Sir Peter Hendy, the chairman of Network Rail, understands this. Not only did he use a visit to Leeds to apologise for his own organisation’s failings, and specifically the incomplete engineering work in the North West which had knock-on effects for the whole region, but he acknowledged the challenges and opportunities that exist.
And when an individual of Sir Peter’s standing is effusive in their praise of Transport for the North as leaders here demand that the body takes back control of the troubled Northern and TransPennine Express franchises, Mr Grayling should take note. After all, Network Rail’s chief previously headed Transport for London which was able to make such a difference in the capital because it had the responsibilities, and resources, that the London-centric Cabinet minister is so reluctant to give to the North. Perhaps he will think again after this timely intervention.