TODAY’S hard-hitting report on the appalling state of the rail infrastructure is even more damning because it’s been produced by an all-party Parliamentary committee. Given this, and the very timely intervention of Heidi Allen, a Yorkshire-born Tory MP at Prime Minister’s Questions, it makes it even harder for Theresa May, or the Transport Secretary, to dismiss the findings.
Not only does the Transport Select Committee totally vindicate the stance taken by The Yorkshire Post over the cancellation of electrification schemes, and the North’s unfair funding, but it makes a number of positive recommendations. And it is important that these proposals are not overlooked in spite of the continuing disruption on the region’s railways – Yorkshire cricket fans, for example, have endured nightmare journeys to and from Scarborough this week – and Downing Street still declining to respond to the unprecedented joint editorial published by this newspaper, and titles across the North, on June 5.
First, the committee sides with all those think-tanks and experts who have been saying, for years, that regions like Yorkshire have been shortchanged. It also calls for the Department for Transport to revise a funding formula which will always favour London because more people live and work in the capital and it will, therefore, benefit from proposed improvements. A government committed to narrowing the North-South divide will do this.
Second, the committee accuses Ministers, such as Chris Grayling, of “a somewhat shaky understanding” of the technological changes which prompted the decision to scrap the electrification of the Midland Mainline and other routes. Its call for such schemes to be reinstated, pending further analysis, should be heeded.
Finally, the committee’s call for Network Rail to be split into regions makes sense. If there was a closer correlation between this body, and train operators, the current chaos could, potentially, have been avoided. However none of this will be possible unless the discredited Mr Grayling – who advocated a second Crossrail scheme in London when scrapping electrification plans here – is replaced by a Transport Secretary who understands the regions – and also the anger of commuters.