EVEN though Chris Grayling provides great material for cartoonists like my colleague Graeme Bandeira whose work features in The Yorkshire Post every Saturday, the state of the railways are no laughing matter for all those passengers still at the mercy of the Transport Secretary and his cohorts.
Their commute has become, and remains, a living hell – and this is before this weekend’s ‘double whammy’ that will see ongoing RMT strike action today followed by a new timetable tomorrow.
Bandeira, a long-suffering commuter himself, is probably right – the trains due at Christmas will probably not arrive until Easter. And this newspaper makes no apology for highlighting the plight of rail passengers here forgotten by Mr Grayling who now goes by the name ‘Failing’ – or ‘Macavity’ when he tries to shirk his responsibilities – because his track record has been calamitous in every ministerial job he has held.
And, after this newspaper revealed this week how the performance of Northern and TransPennine Express trains are getting worse, not better, following May’s catastrophic timetable change, our stance is further vindicated by the findings of the Parliamentary inquiry now concluded by the Transport Committee.
Very critical of Mr Grayling’s ignorance of the hardship suffered by disabled passengers, paragraph 61 is damning and goes to the heart of the issue. “2018 was a year in which huge investment in infrastructure was intended to unlock much needed additional capacity on the railways and produce very substantial benefits for passengers,” it said.
“The system has so far failed to deliver those benefits fully and in the process has demonstrated an extraordinary complacency with regard to protecting the interests of passengers. Those who suffered in the chaos that ensued have been very badly let down.”
Note the phrases like ‘extraordinary complacency’ and ‘very badly let down’. Sentiments I share, they are not my words. They are the findings of an all-party committee which comprises five Labour MPs, four Tories, one SNP and one DUP.
And given that they all agreed on the conclusions, it brings me back to a question that continues to trouble me and which, regrettably, no MP has been able to ask at Prime Minister’s Questions – what does it say to the public about integrity of politics when Chris Grayling appears to be unsackable?
Commons leader Andrea Leadsom dodged it when Hull North MP Diana Johnson had a go at Business Questions on Thursday after I put out the suggestion on social media. Yet Mr Grayling’s continuing presence on the Government benches is one of the great mysteries of these times – and explains why the public have such little trust or confidence in our national politicians. And this is before Brexit hits the buffers. For, if the Government cannot run basic services, what hope is there of its EU negotiation coming off?
EVEN though Harrogate MP Andrew Jones was appointed Rail Minister on November 13, he is still to publish a single tweet about his new role – or when he intends to meet passengers. What’s stopping you?
BREAKING news. A Yorkshire Tory MP has spoken up in defence of ‘public transport’. Unfortunately Selby and Ainsty’s Nigel Adams was responding in his new capacity as a Minister – for Wales. Not much good here.
MORE bad news for Northern passengers – adverts have been placed this week for ‘rail replacement bus drivers’ and also ‘station co-ordinators’ for RMT strike days. How about both sides talking to each other?
Meanwhile the toilet door was not shutting on one of Northern’s Bradford to Ilkley trains this week and the guard told passengers that nothing could be done. Talk about taking the p***.
SO the Committee on Standards concluded that Boris Johnson failed “to register remuneration within the required timetable on nine occasions”. The outside income came largely from book royalties, came to a total £53,000. I venture that this lack of organisation makes the former Foreign Secretary unfit to be a MP – never mind PM.
THIS week’s row over the publication of Brexit legal advice shows how trust has been eroded. When Michael Heseltine was Defence Secretary, the Opposition wanted to see classified papers over the sinking of the General Belgrano in the Falklands war. What did he do? He invited the Select Committee for Defence to his office to read the papers. “There were no problems, no questions and no leaks and the issue was successfully resolved,” he said.
I THOUGHT of the late President George H W Bush when I spotted a Leeds Council attendant penalising a selfish – and able-bodied – motorist for illegally parking in a disabled bay in Guiseley, and not accepting any of the excuses offered. Of all the elder statesman’s many qualities, landmark legislation on disability access was one of his more unheralded legacies – on both sides of the Atlantic.
THERE is a great anecdote in Sir Michael Parkinson’s new book George Best: A Memoir. Asked by Barrie Heads, a one time colleague at The Yorkshire Post, if he fancied a job as a TV producer, he felt he wasn’t qualified. “Don’t worry, neither do the rest of us,” replied Heads. And that is how an unparalleled career broadcasting began. Some story.
FINALLY, if you switch off the TV when BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg pops up, you’re not alone. The great showjumper Harvey Smith does likewise – and calls her as ‘Laura Gloomsberg’. Well, it made me smile...