Yet, while this sentiment was a clear acknowledgement of the political impact of yesterday’s joint ‘enough is enough’ editorial by over 20 regional newspapers, including The Yorkshire Post, Mrs May should be left in no doubt that her response will be judged by her actions rather than her spokesman’s words.
However, the PM’s response falls significantly short of our expectations – or all those who have endorsed this call-to-arms as an online petition is launched by newspapers demanding action. So far, she’s not agreed to meet regional leaders to discuss how best to get services back on track; there’s still no clarity over compensation arrangements or assurance that a new trans-Pennine high-speed line will take precedence over London’s second Crossrail scheme.
As such, Mrs May will be expected to respond to these points at Prime Minister’s Questions. There is no confidence in Chris Grayling, her bungling Transport Secretary, and this was self-evident in the Commons on Monday when he came under fire from MPs of all parties and from all parts of the country.
Given Mr Grayling believes – erroneously – that the buck does not stop with him, or the Department for Transport, it falls to the Prime Minister to show the necessary leadership so services can return to some semblance of normality in the near future.
For her benefit, reliability and punctuality levels across the North’s creaking rail network were totally unacceptable before the recent changes led to the cancellation of more than 2,000 trains and 165 services being cut from timetables. The impact on the lives of ordinary people has been incalculable.
For her benefit, it’s not this region which has been prevaricating over the transfer of powers to Transport for the North to oversee rail services here. It’s her Transport Secretary. As George Osborne – the former Chancellor – tweeted: “Whitehall will resist but decisions about the North should be taken in the North.”
For her benefit, not only has Mr Grayling broken countless promises and misled voters over rail electrification, but he’s treated MPs, and Parliament, with contempt by either declining to attend Commons debates called to examine his record or by his shameless obfuscation.
Given this, there was incredulity when he spoke in the Commons about “an economy that works for everyone”; “the time for action is now”; an infrastructure project of “vital importance to the north of England”; the issue of “regional connectivity” and a willingness to “talk to Parliamentary colleagues” to do the right thing.
However Mr Grayling was speaking about the Cabinet’s endorsement of a third runway at Heathrow Airport rather than a Damascene commitment to ensuring that the North receives transport investment commensurate with the region’s needs and potential. If this is what Mrs May means by getting to grips with the transport chaos, it’s ominous for the future credibility of the Northern Powerhouse – a policy which was supposed to transform the economic landscape of the UK for the better.