Life in Politics column by Rachel Reeves, Labour MP for Leeds West: We need more powers devolved to Leeds

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We all hoped the chaos on Northern rail could not get any worse after the nightmare triggered by the introduction of their new timetable.

However, we now know of the contempt that the London-centric Government has for rail passengers in and around Leeds who are already enduring inexcusable disruption.

Thanks to a series of emails released under freedom of information rules, we learn the line from Southport to Leeds was “not really a valued connection”, but should be kept as a “sop” to local people.

This kind of blinkered, arrogant decision-making in the capital only succeeds in widening the North-South divide which I am determined to continue fighting to close.

The Yorkshire Evening Post has helped spearhead a brilliant campaign to end the misery that local rail travellers have faced for a month. Sadly, there is no end in sight yet to the delays and mass cancellations.

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling continues his spectacular failure to get a grip on this issue. I suspect it would be a very different story if these delays plagued his constituents in Surrey.

It is clear from those private emails from within the Department for Transport that ministers and officials knew about the impending chaos looming at Northern rail two years ago.

Officials cynically talked about a “classic handling strategy” to manage the concerns of people in the North about the disruption.

I have worked hard to get extra trains stopping at the new Kirkstall Forge station to help people get to the new development there and commute to and from the city centre.

But far too many decisions that affect the daily journeys of my constituents in Leeds West and across the city are made 200 miles away in London.

Enough is enough. People in the North are fed up with being the poor relation when it comes to investment in the services we use every day.

We need more powers devolved to Leeds and the North so we can make our own decisions about how to run the railways and our transport services.

A Labour government would bring these poorly run privatised rail franchises back into public ownership.

We will not get the improvements our railways so badly need until we have the power to make those changes ourselves.

I was delighted to raise a glass this week to celebrate the legacy of Alice Bacon who was a real pioneer as Yorkshire’s first female MP.

Miner’s daughter Alice was elected as the MP for Leeds North East at the 1945 general election and went on to become both a Home Office and an Education Minister. She helped introduce comprehensive schools across the country and was passionate about improving the lives of working class people.

As we mark the centenary since the first British women won the right to vote, the Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield has specially brewed Baroness Bacon Beer.

The pale ale has already been sold in the working men’s club that Alice opened in Normanton.

I have now arranged for it to now go on sale at The Stranger’s Bar in the House of Commons – with a picture of Alice on the beer hand pump.

Hopefully, it will help introduce a new generation of politicians and Parliament’s visitors to Alice’s work in transforming people’s lives.

David Brown, managing director of Northern Rail

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