“What has happened has been unacceptable for passengers, but I would also remind him that this is one of the most devolved franchises in England, it is one where the management of the franchise is shared by my department and northern leaders through Rail North, so it is not simply a question of my department,” he told incredulous MPs.
The audacity. He intimated that there wasn’t a shortage of drivers – he said delays stemmed from Network Rail not delivering track improvements on time – and he intended to see “whether Rail North together has done enough of a job in monitoring these problems”.
Yes, Rail North – now Transport for the North – has finally received some policy powers but the latest problems cannot be blamed on local leaders. It comes down to the Department for Transport, and subsidised operators like Northern Rail, not foreseeing the possible pitfalls. For this, Mr Grayling – as Transport Secretary – must take full responsibility. And for him to claim that “improving the service for Northern customers” is belatedly the DfT’s “number one performance priority”, the operator’s track record has been so dismal for so long that this should have been the case long before this week’s misery for passengers revealed, once again, the Minister’s contempt for this region.