TYPICALLY, CHRIS Grayling totally missed the point when he responded to criticism about his mismanagement of the Department for Transport by saying, once again, that it isn’t the role of politicians to run the railway.
For, while day-to-day decisions should be taken by Network Rail, train companies and others, it is, in fact, the Transport Secretary – Mr Grayling in this instance – who presides over the crisis-hit network and who is failing to fulfil his responsibilities.
And, instead of making semantic arguments, he should have used his visit to Leeds Bradford Airport to travel to stations, meet commuters and apologise, in person, for the unprecedented disruption that has taken place on his watch. That’s what a statesman would have done. They would also have invited the media along to witness the exchanges and demonstrate that the Government was willing to learn from an episode which has cost the economy £35m, and led to one million hours being lost due to the cumulative effect of the delays.
Yet, regrettably, Mr Grayling does not fall into this category. He has treated this region with contempt. And while, in fairness, transport spending in the North is finally going up, it is still the poor relation compared to the South and this is offset by the Transport Secretary’s myriad controversies.
Though The Yorkshire Post rarely calls for public figures to step down, the paper did make an exception several months ago when it became the first in the country to demand Mr Grayling’s resignation.
This remains the paper’s position. Mr Grayling has said – or done – nothing in the intervening period to suggest that he can regain the confidence of commuters, undertake the necessary reforms and prioritise the North. And, as The Times editorial noted on Tuesday, matching “the supply of trains to demand and making them run on time should not be a fantasy in the country that invented them”.
The sooner the Transport Secretary, and Theresa May, realise this, the better.