Not only did this unprecedented collective effort generate national headlines, galvanise the North’s leaders and reveal the extent to which rail services in Yorkshire and the rest of the North lag behind the level of investment which is taken for granted in London and the South East, but there’s now a genuine political desire for accountability.
This was self-evident last night when David Brown, managing director of under-fire train operator Northern, was among the railway industry’s senior executives to be questioned by Parliament’s Transport Select Committee about the fiasco and whether it would have been preferable to halt the introduction of new timetables. Today Transport Focus, a passenger watchdog, will hold a public session in Manchester.
Yet, while the short-term decision to withdraw 165 services a day from the timetable has led to some improvements in reliability, Mrs May is very much mistaken if she thinks the demands of the One North campaign have been met. They’ve not. A fortnight later, enhanced recompense for passengers has not been agreed; the Prime Minister has still to meet business leaders to discuss the economic and social impact of the disruption – and hints of greater powers for Transport for the North remain tentative.
It’s not good enough. In case Mrs May is not aware, the train is a lifeline for all those people who don’t have access to a car – and they, frankly, deserve better than the Government’s non-plussed response, an absentee Northern Powerhouse Minister in Jake Berry and a failing Transport Secretary in Chris Grayling who remains incapable of responding to the North’s needs.
Given Mr Grayling is undeserving of the trust of commuters, or misguided loyalty shown by the Tory leader, the question to Mrs May remains the same: what more, Prime Minister, are you going to do to get the North’s railways back on track?