THE chief executive of Northern Rail, David Brown, deserves credit for providing some answers about the crisis that has engulfed passengers and his company, but many questions remain outstanding.
Though Mr Brown points the finger at Network Rail’s failure to finish track improvements on time, this is unlikely to assuage the entirely justified anger of passengers over the timetabling fiasco, which has turned what should be routine commutes into nightmarish journeys.
In particular, there still appears to be a reprehensible degree of buck-passing between the rail operators and the Government about who exactly knew what, and when. The timetable changes were months in the planning, and it is entirely reasonable to demand answers to the question of why their introduction was allowed to go ahead when problems should have been foreseen.
This goes to the heart of the problem. In particular, did the beleaguered Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, know about the impending crisis, and if not, why not? He bears the ultimate responsibility for the rail network, however much he may try to shift blame for its failings onto the operators.
It is high time he and Network Rail provided a comprehensive account of their roles in this crisis. Whatever the answers to these questions turn out to be, it is clear that the Government must act on failing rail services in the north. The proof that both it and the operators are taking this matter sufficiently seriously will only be if they improve rapidly.
One of our region’s most prominent business leaders, Roger Marsh, sets out a sensible way forward by calling on Whitehall to demonstrate its faith in the Northern Powerhouse concept by giving greater local decision-making powers over transport. The Government should heed his call without delay.