Tom Richmond: Finally, MPs rail against shambles on the trains

TransPennine Express services have been raised in Parliament this week.
TransPennine Express services have been raised in Parliament this week.
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AT last a Tory MP from Yorkshire who is standing up to the Government over the shambles on the region’s railways.

I refer to Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake who led a Parliamentary debate this week on the scandalous state of the TransPennine Express franchise over the summer.

Having been previously critical of the region’s politicians for failing to hold Ministers to account, it would be remiss not to acknowledge this intervention – or its significance.

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Noting how Yorkshire’s cricketing faithful trying to get to Scarborough were recently turned back at Malton, he pointed out that “in this day and age people are entitled to expect a reliable service” – hear, hear – before highlighting the scale of the disruption.

“To put the situation in context, over a three-month period in the summer of 2017 in my constituency, six trains were cancelled at Malton,” disclosed Mr Hollinrake, backed up by his Scarborough counterpart Robert Goodwill.

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“This year, over the same period, 56 trains were cancelled. During that period in 2017, 110 trains between Leeds and Scarborough were more than nine minutes late. This year, there were more than four times as many – a total of 479 delayed trains.”

Truly shocking figures which will also come as no surprise to all those people inconvenienced by late, or cancelled, trains between Leeds and Manchester, I agree with Mr Hollinrake, one of the Parliamentary leaders of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, when he calls for “a far more collaborative approach between Network Rail and the operators”.

I also note the contrition of Rail Minister Jo Johnson who said reliability is improving as a result of changes to shift patterns and operators, like TPE, should be penalised if they cut the number of carriages on those trains that do run. He wants better communication for passengers. And he’s also agreed to visit Hull to see the problems there.

At last. Yet the fact remains that these issues were being documented by The Yorkshire Post, and others, three months ago, and the Government’s unforgivable response has been slower than many of the trains here.

And, because of this, Mr Johnson – and others – still have their work cut out if they’re to regain the trust of passengers. For, while this region’s economy has been compromised by the mismanagement of the railways, no one has yet accepted responsibility and resigned. Why not?

TRANSPORT Secretary Chris Grayling blames “teething problems” for the embarrassing revelation that the new express trains which are being brought into service on the East Coast Main Line are incompatible with the route’s track and signalling north of York – and will have to travel at a reduced speed.

I don’t. I call it incompetence. Though the procurement process long preceded the recent collapse of the Virgin / Stagecoach franchise, it’s another reason why the country needs a Transport Secretary who is capable of showing leadership, banging heads together and accepting responsibility. Everything that Mr Grayling doesn’t do.

Meanwhile Andrew Haines, the new chief executive of Network Rail, says the job is one of the worst in the country and that he’s “only as good as the last train”. No sir, you’re only as good as the next train...

IF extra trains, and rolling stock, can be found to take passengers to Dundee this weekend to mark the opening of the acclaimed V&A museum, why can’t this happen in Yorkshire when there are major sporting or cultural events?

WHAT is the point of a Ministerial Code on standards if can’t actually be upheld?

It has emerged that Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary, did not follow due process before resuming his lucrative Daily Telegraph column.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) – which vets appointments by ex-ministers and senior officials – was only informed by Mr Johnson of his new role two weeks after it had been announced by the newspaper.

It is headed by Baroness Angela Browning who says the current non-statutory system only works “if it is dealing with people of honour” – ouch – and miscreants should “be debarred or have some penalty from holding public office for a limited amount of time – probably two years would be a good idea”.

That’s another senior Parliamentarian who, I presume, won’t be voting for Mr Johnson in any Tory leadership contest.

TALKING of Boris Johnson, he was pictured with both hands off the steering wheel of his car as he raised both thumbs to photographers outside the country cottage where he has retreated following his marriage break-up. Perhaps Amber Rudd had a point during the Brexit referendum when she said Mr Johnson isn’t “the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening”.

IF the Tory Brexit plotters can’t agree on how to topple Theresa May, how can they be trusted with running the country? This week’s photo of Boris Johnson, David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg, each with their head in their hands, said it all.

AFTER a cursory three days last week following the elongated summer break, the House of Commons did up its game and sit for four days this week. Now it’s adjourned until October 8 to take account of the party conferences, starting with the Lib Dems who have just 12 MPs.

Why? It’s long been the case that such political gatherings should take place over long weekends – cut back on the booze and late-night schmoozing if necessary – so Parliament can get on with trying to improve this country’s governance.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk