FOLLOWING a period of unprecedented misery and upset for thousands of people, caused by a broken railway, the regional Press across the North of England is today making an historic united stand to demand: enough is enough.
In a week where the buck-passing Transport Secretary Chris Grayling blamed everyone bar himself for the chaos and confusion that has hit Northern Rail, The Yorkshire Post is putting years of rivalry with our publishing peers to one side for the good of our proud regions.
We say to Prime Minister Theresa May that she must now accept responsibility for the interminable disruption, and lead the Government’s response, after Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said ‘sorry’ for the first time as he ordered Network Rail, and the train operators, to ‘fix’ the crisis.
Today, The Yorkshire Post and our colleagues across the industry, on behalf of the 15 million people who are proud to call the North home, table a vote of no confidence in the Transport Secretary who has not shown the leadership that commuters had a right to expect.
This unprecedented show of unity by over 20 titles is in direct response to the disruption suffered by hundreds of thousands of passengers since new timetables were introduced on the Northern network a fortnight ago – a situation described by a 10 Downing Street spokesman yesterday as “completely unacceptable”.
With passengers bracing themselves for weeks of further delays as a result of these cack-handed changes, you, Mrs May, will be jeopardising the credibility of the Northern Powerhouse, and alienating this region for good, if you do not intervene now on behalf of passengers.
Given its over-riding objective is to improve public transport between the North’s major cities in order to transform the future economic prospects of this region, we together urge you to:
* summon transport chiefs, and business leaders, to 10 Downing Street this week for an emergency summit to devise an action plan to get this region moving again;
challenge Northern Rail to specify, in full, the promised compensation scheme for those passengers most affected by the delays and disruption;
* give Transport for the North the necessary policy and financial powers so it can have full oversight of all local, suburban and regional services and work in tandem with Network Rail. It is clear our railways cannot be cared for properly from London;
* commit the Government to a full and fundamental review of rail franchising – the Northern fiasco is yet another example of a franchisee over-promising and under-delivering;
* promise that the planned high-speed line across the Pennines – Northern Powerhouse Rail – will take precedence over or equal to the second Crossrail scheme being drawn up in London.
The Yorkshire Post also stands by its repeated calls for Transport Secretary to be sacked and to be replaced by a successor who understands the needs of the North.
There are also serious misgivings about the future of the East Coast Main Line as Northern Powerhouse leaders meet in Westminster today to press for clarity as the route returns to public control later this month.
Even the introduction of an emergency timetable yesterday, which saw 165 services scrapped, did not halt the misery in some parts of this region which has already seen over 2,000 trains cancelled in the past two weeks and many more subjected to long delays.
The resulting inconvenience suffered by passengers ranging from top business executives to commuters, jobseekers, students, tourists and many others has been, and remains, incalculable as Mr Grayling announced an inquiry into how the introduction of the new timetable was so mismanaged by the industry.
Unlike London and the South East, this region’s transport infrastructure has been under-funded by successive governments and the North simply cannot sit and wait for the completion of HS2 and better links to and from London.
If we are to make a greater contribution to the prosperity of the whole country, we need a transport network fit for the 21st century with improved east-west connections and the North’s great cities linked by the quantity and quality of services being introduced on London’s state-of-the-art Crossrail line.
Rest assured, The Yorkshire Post, along with other media in the North, will not ease up until it is satisfied with the answers provided by Mrs May and her Government’s level of commitment to the North after yet another unconvincing appearance by Mr Grayling in the Commons yesterday.