UNTIL now, Theresa May and her 10 Downing Street team have appeared to be in denial about the summer of discontent on the region’s railways.
Their ambivalence is reflected by their failure to publicly respond to the unprecedented One North joint editorial, published by The Yorkshire Post and rival newspapers, on June 5 which urged the Prime Minister to take a number of urgent steps on behalf of long-suffering passengers.
Yet, while Mrs May tried to ignore a number of critical interventions at Prime Minister’s Questions amid growing calls for Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to be sacked, there is now an acceptance that the Government does, in fact, need to do more to improve the punctuality and reliability of trains here.
After the Northern Powerhouse Partnership published a damning report which revealed that the region’s economy had suffered a £38m hit as a direct result of the disruption, and that more than one million hours had been lost, Mrs May’s spokesman said that the Prime Minister would study the figures. For once, they weren’t totally dismissive.
And, on a day when some services were withdrawn at the height of the timetable chaos were reinstated, the spokesman accepted that the disruption is “unacceptable” and “we must continue to see further significant improvements”. Judging by the number of Northern and TransPennine Express services yesterday that were either very late or cancelled, this is an understatement.
Though this intervention will – just like the trains – be too late for many people, it is a start and this newspaper will continue to maintain the pressure on Mrs May until the Government prioritises the North. What is less clear is how this region’s rail services can be overhauled when 10 Downing Street says it has complete confidence in a Transport Secretary who still says that it is not his job to run the railways. Over to you, Prime Minister.