IT IS probably too much to expect Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to respond in person to today’s Parliamentary debate on the unacceptable state of the North’s rail services that has been tabled by Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff. The Macavity-like Minister has not done so previously and still appears to be in denial about the disquiet here.
However Andrew Jones – the newly-appointed Rail Minister – should be well-placed to offer reassurances about the unreliability of TransPennine Express services that prompted Ms Sheriff to call for action, the particular hardship being endured by disabled passengers whose needs have been overlooked and today’s revelation that only one in three Northern trains were on time over the past four weeks.
As MP for Harrogate, he will already be aware of the public anger when trains are late – or when passengers can’t get on overcrowded trains because the number of carriages has been cut. Not only is this a frequent occurrence on the Minister’s own line, but it is a familiar story across the region and stands in contrast to London where no expense is spared when it comes to new trains or bailing out Crossrail.
Yet, while some sincerity from the Minister will be a start, tweaking compensation schemes for passengers will not suffice ahead of the new year hike in fares. They want to know when the performance of TransPennine Express and Northern will improve and the action that the Government will take if the current chaos persists.
More than six months after The Yorkshire Post and other newspapers across the region published an unprecedented joint editorial calling for urgent intervention in the wake of botched timetable changes, services have not improved. Far from it. On many routes, they have got worse and passengers are still awaiting meaningful responses, and commitments, from Ministers. Today would be a very belated start.