Constituents have told me that their jobs are under threat as delays and cancellations are making them late for work. Home lives are being wrecked by long commutes home, and friends and families are being called on regularly to help pick up children from school and nursery.
It is totally unacceptable that people’s lives are being damaged in this way and our whole regional economy is having to pick up the cost of the government’s failure to make sure that we have a transport system that delivers locally for people and business.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has tried to point the finger of blame at Network Rail, which has overall responsibility for the timetable changes that have been introduced, but commuters tell me that the train operators were failing to deliver reliable services even before these recent changes.
The Tory government, and Chris Grayling in particular, must take responsibility. It is his job ultimately to make sure that such major changes to rail timetables across the country are properly introduced.
I raised concerns with the Secretary of State a month before the timetable changes after one sharp-eyed regular rail using constituent predicted the rail fail that was coming.
I asked the Secretary of State what steps he had taken to ensure that there was adequate track capacity and adequate train numbers in place to support the new timetable.
Mr Grayling handed the question on to his rail minister Jo Johnson to answer who would only say that it was the responsibility of the train operating company to get it right.
I will be telling the Minister tonight that his department’s failure to get a grip on a predictable crisis is damaging the lives and job prospects of my constituents. He can’t duck responsibility and must show leadership to end this rail chaos.
I want to see action:
- A published plan with dates and milestones for when passengers can expect to see improvements as soon as possible.
- An agreed and urgent deadline for when the significant backlog of outstanding Delay Repay claims will be dealt with.
- A broader compensation offer for regular users given the scale of the disruption, paid for by fines levied on the train operator.
Northern must be put on notice that if it fails to deliver an agreed immediate action plan and a longer-term strategy to improve its service a process will be initiated to remove the train company’s franchise to operate.