IN the Government’s defence, it is spending more money on the country’s creaking transport infrastructure than previous generations. It had to – the railways in particular are paying the price for decades of under-investment that can be traced back 50 years to the Beeching cuts – and annual fare rises are one way of raising the funds required.
Yet the anger of commuters, witnessed at stations across the region as average ticket prices went up by 3.4 per cent, was more than justifiable and cannot be easily dismissed by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling whose silence was deafening for a Minister who is invariably the first to defend Theresa May – he’s reportedly in Qatar on business.
He should consider the issue from the perspective of Yorkshire’s passengers. As Crossrail, London’s new state-of-the-art railway, nears completion, travellers here are paying even more for the privilege of standing on outdated rolling stock, including the notorious Pacer trains, while the Government procrastinates over high-speed rail in the North, all while the customer service often leaves much to be desired.
Mr Grayling also needs to remember that many passengers have to use the train – they have no alternative means of transport – and that the pace of change in the North is far too slow. As the Cabinet minister faces mounting criticism over the East Coast franchise and its financial arrangements, it is time for an annual audit of the railway industry’s finances carried out by an independent body that reveals exactly how – and where – money from taxpayers, passengers and private operator is spent.