FIRST the good news. Rail Minister Andrew Jones did turn up for the latest Parliamentary debate on the unacceptable state of the region’s train services in contrast to 14 out of 17 Tory MPs from Yorkshire who were absent. Either they all had a very good reason – or they believe that the issue is not relevant to their constituents.
In fairness to Mr Jones who represents Harrogate, he acknowledged the impact of this year’s interminable delays. He hopes passengers will notice a difference by the end of next year. And he then concluded: “We have got a trans-Pennine upgrade that is bigger than anything considered by Labour.”
This last statement was a clear swipe at the many Labour MPs from Yorkshire, led by Dewsbury’s Paula Sherriff, who spoke with great conviction about how the daily train lottery was affecting the mental health of commuters and parents who could not get home on time to collect their children from nursery or to put them to bed.
For the benefit of Mr Jones, this should not be about party politics. It is about the future prosperity of this region and the most strident call for the Department for Transport to intervene and stop the failed TransPennine Express franchise imposing a hike in ticket prices next month came from his Conservative colleague Kevin Hollinrake, the Thirsk and Malton MP.
Mr Hollinrake said services to and from Scarborough were getting worse, not better, and Ministers needed to intervene because “political pressure” was not working. And, in many respects, this point is fundamental to the future of the North’s railways – irrespective of future investment plans.
For, while all MPs condemned the poor communication of both TransPennine Express and Northern, and specifically the problems faced by disabled passengers, they still want to know how the operators will be held to account and the measures open to the Government if reliability does not improve.
Given his reluctance to spell this out to MPs, The Yorkshire Post invites Mr Jones to address this specific point in an open letter to the North’s rail passengers – and all those who say ‘enough is enough’.