After the unprecedented decision of 25 newspapers across the North, including The Yorkshire Post, to jointly call on Theresa May to take urgent steps to end rail chaos engulfing the region, pressure on the Prime Minister and her beleaguered Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has been further increased by the intervention of more than 70 of the region’s most influential business leaders and council chiefs.
In a joint letter to The Sunday Times, the group detailed the mounting anger at unacceptable numbers of cancelled and delayed trains, with travellers turning up late for work, businesses struggling to cope and public services being put under strain.
It states: “The failure of Northern Rail to be ready for the new timetables, the delays to the completion of engineering works by Network Rail and the lack of government action have led to this debacle.”
The letter also points out that even if timetable issues are dealt with, the region’s railway network is still not good enough to make the North an equal partner in the UK economy. Notably, among the signatories are the Conservative leaders of North Yorkshire, Hambleton, Craven and Eden councils; indicating both the cross-party strength of feeling and the political danger the Government faces if this crisis is not properly dealt with.
The call from the Northern leaders to the Government is simple; give Transport for the North full powers to manage all northern infrastructure and back its £70bn investment plan to give the region a “fit-for-purpose” modern rail network.
The problems may have only just sprung to national attention, but this has been a fiasco years in the making. However, from every crisis comes an opportunity. In February, Mrs May refused to back calls for Northern transport bosses to be given the same powers as those in London. The time has come for a rethink.