THIS week’s damning report from the Transport Select Committee (The Yorkshire Post, December 4 and 5) reflects the misery and chaos suffered by rail passengers in the Northern Powerhouse this year; chaos that is far from over.
Operator Northern ran a completely unacceptable service during the height of the crisis, and although they moved swiftly to improve the situation, significant issues with delays and cancellations still persist.
But TransPennine Express are a franchise in failure and there is a strong case for robust action. This action should be by Northern leaders, as they should control the franchises in the North, but the Government has refused to allow that to happen – therefore it is on them to address trans-Pennine services.
At Manchester Airport, the performance of TransPennine Express services has dropped by around 30 per cent when compared to last year and, in the worst case, one in every four trains to the airport has been cancelled. This is having a significant impact on people in all parts of the North being able to access its primary international gateway and on the region’s reputation with overseas visitors and investors.
Whether it be families going on holiday, commuters or bemused business travellers, we have watched in dismay as people are thrown off trains before their end destination, often at short notice, as they carry heavy bags and are worried about missing their flights.
It is deplorable and the Government must intervene to ensure it does not continue. The evidence to the Committee from Transport Focus makes it clear TransPennine Express has evaded the limelight during the fiasco during the summer – now they must be held to account.
The call to keep fare rises for the coming year to a minimum, with a discount for those renewing their season tickets in 2019 to mean no price increase, is a sensible suggestion by the Transport Select Committee.
We are disappointed at the lack of focus on the opportunities to improve the way railways are run in the North using our devolved institution of Transport for the North, including the need for Rail North to come with equivalent infrastructure oversight powers, which is why the forthcoming Blake Review is of such importance.
It will address the concerns of many businesses and passengers who, as our Devolving our Railways report has shown, paid the price for what was allowed to happen in the summer.