If Theresa May and Chris Grayling needed any further evidence of the political cost of the continuing failure to deal with the North’s creaking transport infrastructure, they could not have asked for a better illustration than that of Jeremy Corbyn spending the day on the region’s railways to highlight passengers’s continuing unhappiness at slow-moving and unreliable services.
It will come as no surprise to regular passengers that Mr Corbyn’s train from Liverpool to Hull today was running more than 15 minutes late by the time it arrived in Leeds. The damage was compounded by the fact that the Opposition leader’s publicity stunt - designed to promote Labour’s plans for rolling renationalisation of the railways - came as it was reported there will be a 12-month delay in introducing the legislation required to extend HS2 to Leeds and Manchester.
As Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Select Committee, said, given high-speed rail is supposed to be the ‘great economic conduit’ for the North and part of the plans to rebalance the nation’s economic growth, it raises further questions about the Government’s willingness to invest in this region.
When The Yorkshire Post took the unprecedented step of joining forces with more than 20 local and regional papers earlier this year in direct response to the disruption suffered by hundreds of thousands of passengers from the botched roll-out of new rail timetables, the Government was clearly warned of the political damage that was being caused.
Since then, while the worst effects of the timetable chaos have been partially mitigated, there has been negligible action on the wider issues holding back the region’s economy - such as granting equivalent powers to northern transport leaders as those enjoyed in London. The lack of initiative is presenting Mr Corbyn with an open goal.