SIX months after a botched new timetable led to unparalleled chaos on the North’s railways, it was the Conservative MP Robert Goodwill who spoke for the entire region when he challenged Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in Parliament and asked: “When are we likely to see a return to normality?”
He was highlighting the well-documented delays and disruption on TransPennine Express services between York and his Scarborough constituency, but he could equally have been referring to any railway line here as Yorkshire’s economy and reputation continues to be hit by Government inertia.
And the fact that Mr Grayling could not provide a straight answer – he cited the vague promise of an extra service to Scarborough next year and a performance review currently being undertaken – is unacceptable when set against data being published by The Yorkshire Post today.
In a nationwide list identifying the 10 worst performing main stations over the past six months, York, Sheffield and Huddersfield all feature while Leeds – the region’s busiest station – only fares very marginally better. Conversely, nine out of the 10 best performing stations are located in London.
Indicative of the extent to which transport policy and spending is still skewed so heavily in the capital’s favour, such statistics also make a mockery of Mr Grayling’s pretence that he’s the best person to get services back on the track. If he was, there would have been a more marked improvement by now – and more decisive action to reform the discredited TPE and Northern franchises.
The more pertinent question therefore, at the end of another week in which Mr Grayling’s many failings have been clear for all to see, is just what will it take for the Prime Minister to realise that her Transport Secretary is simply not qualified or trusted to oversee the trains?