YP Comment: Time to put rail passengers in driving seat

WHEN will the railway industry recognise that it is supposed to provide a public service? A question ignored for too long, it is even more pertinent as strike action by the rail unions threatens to spread to Virgin East Coast services and Eurostar trains at the height of the holiday season.

Virgin east Coast could be the latest rail service to be hit by strike action.

Once again, passengers – who already have to pay the most expensive fares in Europe – are left to pay the price because of the inability of the unions, train operators and Ministers to constructively tackle the myriad of problems afflicting the rail network.

Only in Britain could a franchise holder, in this instance Southern Railway, be given the green light to cancel dozens of services – disruption compounded by RMT industrial action over whether drivers or conductors should be responsible for opening and shutting train doors – in a bid to improve punctuality and reliability.

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Yet what is frustrating is the failure of anyone in the transport industry to take responsibility and recognise that the travelling public are the most important people of all.

Whether it be industrial relations or chronic overcrowding on services in Yorkshire and elsewhere, there’s no clear leadership despite the best efforts of visionaries like Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy. Train firms say they’re hamstrung by Ministers while the Department for Transport blame the operators, the latest example being the reluctance of either to accept responsibility for the Southern saga. And then there is the RMT union which is exploiting this leadership vacuum.

If the railways are to get back on track, it needs the operators, politicians and unions to work together. How about the relevant parties booking a couple of away days on the trains and seeing the multitude of problems at first hand before coming up with a 10-point plan for the future rather than continuing to regard passengers as an irritating inconvenience? This is surely preferable to the Government legislating to outlaw strike action by the rail unions, a state of affairs which would risk genuine safety concerns being sidelined.

Wake up America – voters hold Trump card

EVEN by Donald Trump’s standards, the juxtaposition of his comments on the right to bear firearms, and Hillary Clinton, mark a depressing new low in a tawdry and dispiriting US presidential election like no other.

Yet the frightening thought, in a year of political convulsion on both sides of the Atlantic, is that he could still become the leader of the free world this November because of the electorate’s volatility.

The so-called experts said Jeremy Corbyn could not become leader of the Labour Party. He did. The same correspondents said Britain would not vote for Brexit. It did. These very commentators than declared that Mr Trump could not win the Republican nomination.

They were wrong, hence why the billionaire cannot be written off despite his shoot-from-the-hip outbursts which have now prompted fresh warnings about the threat to national security if Mr Trump wins the keys to the White House.

Even though the USA’s gun laws are simply unfathomable in Britain, and elsewhere, it can only be hoped that sufficient Americans heed this wake-up call, come to their senses before it is too late and realise that their duty is to elect a head of state and international leader rather than a political street brawler whose idea of diplomacy is to make even more outlandish allegations about his opponents in a rambling manner which makes George W Bush resemble one of the great orators in comparison.

The history boys: Laugher and Mears strike gold

WHAT a win. Jack Laugher and Chris Mears captured the hearts of the country when they became the first British divers in history to strike gold at the Olympics. An emotional roller-coaster, the Leeds-based divers reigned supreme in the Rio rain after producing the performance of their lives.

It only tells part of the story - North Yorkshire-born Laugher nearly gave up the sport after falling short of his high standards in London while Mears, an adopted Yorkshireman, was given a five per cent chance of survival following a near-death illness in Australia seven years ago.

A victory for perseverance, these divers - house-mates and best friends - never stopped fighting and were the first to dedicate their success to their flabbergasted families, fabulous fans and fantastic coaches at the John Charles Centre for Sport. Take a bow lads - you are outstanding Yorkshire ambassadors and this triumph will, hopefully, be the springboard to even greater success.