From: Tony Plumbe, Chair, Rail Group, Acton for Yorkshire Transport.
TRANSPORT Secretary Grant Shapps’ decision to relieve Arriva Rail North Ltd of their franchise and place part of the operation of trains in the North in the hands of the Department for Transport’s Operator of Last Resort (OLR Holdings Ltd) is a first step in the right direction to restoring confidence in the North’s railways, but it is only a partial step (The Yorkshire Post, January 30).
TransPennine Express (TPE) services have also been appalling in the last year, and in no small measure responsible for Arriva Rail North’s underperformance. Yet the Shapps announcement makes no proposals for sorting out TPE’s operations. Hence the team entrusted to improve Northern Trains performance will be constrained by TPE being left to operate willy-nilly.
The requirement for OLR Holdings Ltd to sit down with Network Rail to align rail services to infrastructure delivery is to be applauded, but will not necessarily ensure Network Rail will deliver upgrades on schedule which has been a major source of recent railway difficulties in the North.
We welcome the announcement to lengthen the platforms at 30 stations to enable longer trains to relieve overcrowding. For this to be effective, all stations along a crowded route need to be lengthened or all trains to comprise interconnected rolling stock with selective door opening.
The Shapps announcement says that more electric trains from elsewhere on the rail network will be transferred to Manchester and Leeds services in a year’s time, but given the lack of electrification of routes around Leeds, we question how routes around Leeds will benefit. We would heartedly welcome more electrification in Yorkshire! But that part of the jigsaw is missing in this announcement.
It is widely recognised that the decision of the DfT to penny- pinch by providing two instead of the four proposed tracks on the Castlefield Corridor, and not build additional platforms at Manchester Piccadilly, has led to this congestion; what is needed is action, not further study. Likewise, a Leeds Station Master Plan was undertaken about two years ago, so why are further studies of emerging congestion needed there? Fast tracking action around Leeds is needed instead. Attracting more passengers out of their cars and vans onto the railways offers the opportunity to move towards meeting the objectives of climate change emergency declarations and emissions reduction.