FIRST the downgrading of two major rail electrification schemes in the region that had been much-vaunted prior to the election.
Now this week’s revelation that Transport for the North will only have advisory powers rather than the full autonomy promised by Ministers.
Despite Transport Secretary Chris Grayling maintaining that this region is receiving record funding, it does not compensate for decades of underinvestment in its infrastructure and trust in the Cabinet Minister is, frankly, breaking down as a result of his department’s mixed messages.
It’s all the more opportune, therefore, that Hull North MP Diana Johnson will lead a backbench debate in the House of Commons on Monday night on transport investment in the North and, specifically, the trans-Pennine route which is little more than a glorified branch line in comparison to London’s state-of-the-art services. Only this week guards on one rush-hour service shortened to three carriages apologised to passengers for “the level of business”.
Yet this issue transcends the constituencies serviced by the Hull to Liverpool line. It affects the whole region and is fundamental to the future of the Northern Powerhouse.
Yet, while time for interventions by backbenchers is limited by Parliamentary protocols, every MP from Yorkshire should, at the very least, be present in a symbolic show of cross-party support to demonstrate the seriousness of this matter – voters certainly have every right to expect a better attendance than last month’s devolution debate when less than one third of the county’s MPs bothered to attend.
They now need to do their duty. And so, too, does Mr Grayling.
Rather than sending a lowly junior Minister on his behalf, the Transport Secretary is duty-bound to be present in the House of Commons to listen to the debate and misgivings, to lead the Government’s response and to explain why he should still be trusted after this week’s revelations about Transport for the North’s diluted powers.
This newspaper, and this region, will settle for nothing less.