Gareth Edmunds, a director of Sirius Minerals, says the unreliability of train services is affecting the firm’s staff – and is also sending out the wrong message to global backers. “We have international investors coming to see us and if they can’t get from York to Scarborough it can be a problem for us. We are being let down,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
Mr Edmunds is not alone. The deteriorating in the performance of TransPennine Express services – just one in five trains now arrive on time – has become well-documented in recent weeks. Passengers heading to Hull, Scarborough and Middlesbrough are invariably left stranded at York, or stations like Malton, because services are so late that they don’t have time to reach their intended final destination.
And, as well as compromising the economy of a rural area already bereft of branch lines, tourism – the lifeblood of the East Coast – is also being hit.
The latest casualties were cricket fans trying to reach Scarborough for Yorkshire’s match with Worcestershire. Their train stopped at Malton before heading back to Liverpool. Despite TPE’s managing director Leo Goodwin saying services to resort were improving, nothing appears to have been learned from June when the travel plans of spectators were similarly ruined.
Given that the summer of disruption on the railways has already cost the North’s economy at least £35m, and led to one million hours being lost, it was opportune that Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, visited the Sirius Minerals plant yesterday as part of his week-long tour of the region.
Yet, while the Minister is keen to listen and learn, his Government needs to do likewise. Disruption like this can’t carry on and TransPennine Express, like Northern, should stripped of its franchise before even more damage is caused to the communities that these under-fire operators are actually supposed to serve.