THE North’s long-suffering rail passengers did not need an official inquiry to tell them that no organisation – or individual – was taking responsibility for the unprecedented chaos on the region’s railways this summer.
They knew this months ago when politicians, like Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, were in denial about the disruption and did not acknowledge the crisis on the Northern and TransPennine Express services.
Not one person has resigned – or been sacked – for this leadership void and the Office of Rail and Road now criticises decision-making protocols. It found that no part of the rail industry took sufficient responsibility for managing the introduction of new timetables and Mr Grayling’s department failed to sufficiently question Northern and Network Rail about potential risks.
As research by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership showed, late and cancelled trains have already cost the economy £38m – and this figure does not account for the rail industry’s wider reputational damage.
Yet, while this latest inquiry was one of the key demands that the North’s newspapers – including The Yorkshire Post – set out in an unprecedented joint editorial in early June at the height of the crisis, Theresa May has still to respond, compensation arrangements remain ad hoc and only now are timetables being stabilised.
It can’t continue like this. As Mr Grayling launches a review into rail franchising, presumably to divert attention away from his lack of leadership, trust in the railways will only be rebuilt by enshrining these findings into law so there is proper accountability and scrutiny in the future. It’s the least passengers deserve after enduring so much misery and hardship. And that starts with Transport Secretary – the man who said it wasn’t his job to run the railways. It is. And it is to this Government’s shame that he’s still at the controls.