IF the trains ran on time – and this region enjoyed the levels of investment taken for granted in London and the South East – today’s average fare rise of 3.1 per cent could be justified.
Yet this is not the case. Not only is punctuality at a 13-year low according to national figures, but commuters here have suffered months of misery after last year’s botched timetable changes.
And, to cap it off, the phasing out of Northern’s fleet of antiquated Pacers – buses converted into makeshift trains in the 1980s – is being delayed because hold-ups to track improvements in the North West mean new rolling stock cannot be introduced as planned.
They were only supposed to operate for a decade. Yet the fact they are still operating, and that Theresa May’s government thinks this is remotely acceptable, is indicative of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s contempt and why calls from Tory and Labour MPs to freeze fares should have been heeded.
Eighteen months after Mr Grayling started breaking the promises that he made to Yorkshire commuters in the 2017 election, it is, frankly, scandalous that he is still in his job when so many people continue to have their lives disrupted by late-running or non-existent trains.
It is not just the railways that he has mismanaged. He compromised the justice system before moving to the Department for Transport where his failure to implement measures to combat drones led to pre-Christmas chaos at Gatwick Airport.
And this was before it emerged that his department had awarded a controversial £13.8m contract to run extra ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit to a company with no ships and which has not previously operated a service.
Given the DfT’s lamentable track record when it comes to awarding rail franchises, Mr Grayling’s judgment does not inspire confidence as passengers dig deeper into their pockets for pay for a third-rate service.
It begs these questions – what will it actually take for Mr Grayling to be sacked and when can passengers expect the DfT to intervene if services do not improve rapidly in the New Year? Over to you, Prime Minister.