YP Letters: Why has Combined Authority been silent over rail issue?

From: Coun Carmel Harrison (Lib Dem), Rothwell Ward, Leeds City Council.

Are political leaders in Leeds doing enough to stand up for commuters?

THANK you for the consistent and persistent coverage of the Northern Rail debacle that has come to a head in the last few weeks. I also admire the way The Yorkshire Post, and Tom Richmond personally, have shone a light at some of the workings of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

As the newly elected Lib Dem portfolio member for Transport, I have been confused and disappointed that while I have joined my fellow commuters (yes I do use the train, when it runs) in demanding action by Northern Rail and the Minister for Transport, and have written to my local MP, Alec Shelbrooke demanding that Chris Grayling at least visits Leeds to explain himself, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority has not been to the fore on the issue.

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I must admit that when I entered the Civic Hall it was made clear to me that our powers as a local authority were limited in regard to public transport. However, as elected representatives of people who use a public service, I don’t think it is unreasonable to lobby on their behalf those people who can make a difference.

So while Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester has been vocal in holding the Minister for Transport to account and while the independent print media have joined forces to take up the fight on behalf of commuters, what has the elected body in Leeds done? Or those across West Yorkshire for that matter?

I spoke on BBC Radio Leeds from Platform 1 the first day of the new timetables as mayhem broke out. I have lent my support to Andy Burnham, I am aligned to various social media streams demanding action. In Woodlesford we continue our own campaign for improvement, but with the best will in the world we will remain unheard unless Yorkshire MPs and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority do their bit too.

Northern Rail must be stripped of the franchise and barred from further contracts and there must be no TUPE (transfer of undertakings) of management staff across. It will simply move the problem, not solve it. There has to be large scale investment in track, rolling stock and networks, while stations must be brought into the 21st century. As a short term panacea, commuters must be compensated for the financial, social and time losses they have all endured.

Once more I applaud your action so far, but local representatives must play their part or explain their failings.