WEST YORKSHIRE: Rail services still not good enough, meeting hears

A meeting heard rail services had still some way to go.
A meeting heard rail services had still some way to go.

Members of an influential committee of politicians in West Yorkshire have once again criticised a lack of responsiveness from rail operators in the north of England following the summer’s timetable debacle.

Speaking about a report which went before the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s (WYCA) transport committee, officers and councillors agreed that, although improvements had been made to services affected by the summer’s timetable problems, services in the region were still not up to scratch.

It follows a report this week from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), which blamed a lack of “responsibility and accountability” for the rail problems faced by Yorkshire and the North West this summer.

Updating members of the committee on the current state of rail services in West Yorkshire, a WYCA officer told the meeting: “The reliability is significantly down on last year, and people are being left behind at stations.”

He added that workings at Leeds station had improved – and that driver training has taken place.

He said: “Pleasingly we are seeing improved rolling stock coming into this part of the world.

“I would hope that we will be able to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”

Mentioning the ORR report, he added: “What is of note is that the report says it is not clear who is actually in charge and accountable for railway in this country.”

Leeds councillor Michael Lyons told the meeting: “We keep coming to these meetings and we keep asking questions but we never get any answers about what is happening or what the people we represent should be doing.

“Since privatisation, we haven’t gone one day in any franchise where we have strengthened trains. Are we going to take this seriously?”

The officer responded: “We hope the operators do. The numbers suggest this is a big challenge at present – particularly in Northern.”

Coun Lyons said: “If the people of West Yorkshire are paying money for a service they are not getting, we should find out how short we are and not pay them the money in the first place.

“They are getting money under false pretences because they are running trains that aren’t up to the franchise.

“They have had no intention, in all these years, of doing what they are getting paid for. All the money the people are paying to train companies should be fulfilled and it isn’t.

“We want a strengthening of the trains so they are not as full and people don’t get left.”

He also asked whether there were enough drivers to operate services, adding: “I want to know whether we have a proper establishment of drivers and guards to fulfil the timetables that was agreed to. It’s not much to ask.”

Chairing the meeting, Leeds councillor Kim Groves said: “I would hope in the next few days the north will be given the powers to deal with the situation that is facing us now. Possibly this is back to the drawing board for Network Rail.

“Hopefully the north will get the powers it deserves to get this resolved. Passengers are being failed.”

A representative of Transpennine Express told the meeting: “We have a full driver training programme in place. We have recruited in the region of in excess of 50 drivers going through the training programme.

“We have drivers in place for the timetable that was brought in. We have no shortfall at all.

“We are on target in terms of the introduction of the additional rolling stock, and have the driver provision for that. We are well above where we should be.

“There is no risk in terms of any driver shortage at all.”