Andy McDonald: Last year's rail chaos will happen again without major overhaul

Commuters on a platform. Credit:Gareth Fuller/PA
Commuters on a platform. Credit:Gareth Fuller/PA
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The North will see a repeat of last year’s rail chaos unless the network is radically overhauled, the Shadow Transport Secretary has warned.

Speaking a year on from the botched timetable implementation that left passengers stranded across the region, Andy McDonald has claimed that the event was not a “one-off” but had laid bare deep flaws in Britain’s railways.

Mr McDonald branded northern transport infrastructure “not fit for purpose”, and described travelling from London back to his Middlesbrough constituency as like “going back in time”.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “I fear that the chaos we saw last year may happen again unless Government fundamentally reforms the railways...

“I don’t regard it as a one-off event.

“It is just symptomatic of the wider malaise in the northern transport network that is fundamental and structural in terms of the infrastructure itself and how the operation works.

“We have to completely overhaul that. It is not fit for purpose and as a constituency MP with my constituency in the North of England I know just how northern infrastructure and operation does not compare with journeys in the South of England.”

Referring to stark regional disparities in rail services, Mr McDonald described travelling from London as “being a journey in time as you creep north through the country”.

He added: “I arrive at Darlington railway station and wait for the old Pacer to come and... it’s a dreadful scene, isn’t it? People huddled on to these old buses on train wheels.

“That is not appropriate for 21st century Britain and we have been saddled with these things for far too long.”

Rail Minister and Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones also highlighted the urgent need to upgrade the region’s trains, as he admitted that the entire network was suffering from decades of under-funding.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “We are playing catch up on transport investment right across the country after many decades when we have under-invested in transport.

“Therefore it applies to governments of all colours.”

He added: “Our rolling stock in the North of England – it is old. In most cases it is a little bit grotty. It is past its sell by date and needs to move on.

“I want to see that modernisation of the rolling stock and that capacity and journey time improvements that come from the transpennine rail upgrade.

“When we have got those two things in place that will make a big difference for passengers across the North.”

Addressing hints from Cabinet Minister and Tory leadership contender, Liz Truss, that she could scrap the Government’s flagship high speed rail project, HS2, Mr Jones said: “HS2 is the means through which we will deliver the capacity the network needs for the decades ahead.

“It is happening now. It is a very exciting project. I went to see the site in the centre of Birmingham, at Curzon street on Friday morning where they are doing all the preparatory work. So, there are people working on HS2 now.

“It has significant cross-party support. It has been backed by business leaders, by regional leaders right across the country and I think we need it for the capacity.”