Rail campaigners urge Grant Shapps to visit Pennine stations – Yorkshire Post Letters

From: David Hagerty, Slaithwaite & Marsden Action on Rail Transport.

Rail campaigners from Slaithwaite and Marsden are still pressing for answers from Grant Shapps over planned improvements.
Rail campaigners from Slaithwaite and Marsden are still pressing for answers from Grant Shapps over planned improvements.

GRANT Shapps (The Yorkshire Post, May 21) is saying many of the right things – about getting rid of the fragmentation of the railways into hundreds of different companies who then put more effort into trying to pin the blame on someone else rather than fixing problems; about clarity about who is in charge; about giving the English regions a stronger voice; about decarbonisation and accessibility – and all these things are necessary.

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In our dealings with the railway industry, one of the things we have noticed is that whenever there’s a decision or an outcome we don’t like, it’s never the people we are speaking to who are responsible. It’s always the person or organisation who is not in the room.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during a visit to Leeds in January 2020.

This announcement was made in the same week that his own department refused this newspaper’s request to make public the agenda and minutes of meetings of his Northern Transport Acceleration Council. It’s difficult to reconcile the words about accountability and a stronger voice for the regions with the actions and the obsessive secrecy of his own department.

If this reorganisation means concentrating even more power in the hands of the incompetent, secretive and London-centric Department for Transport, then it will fail.

Words need to be turned into actions, and Mr Shapps has yet to transform the department he inherited into one which is capable of making and implementing sensible decisions.

Here in the Colne Valley we have been asking for the past 10 years when the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU, announced in the 2011 Autumn Statement) will be approved, and whether it will deliver for our communities the basic outcomes of a half- hourly train service and full disabled access at all stations (and specifically Marsden). We still cannot get answers.

We will be more than happy to invite Mr Shapps to Marsden, so that he can see for himself why station accessibility is needed and how it could be done in a way that brings wider environmental and economic benefits to the community. We will even extend the invitation to whichever London-based civil servants are involved in making decisions about essential Northern rail investment schemes.

So Mr Shapps needs to approve what was announced 10 years ago, deliver what was promised, and then his fine words might be met with a little less scepticism and a bit more enthusiasm.

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