Calls to end misery on our rail services
PRESSURE is growing on rail chiefs to put an end to the “daily misery” suffered by passengers across the North.
Almost eight months on from major timetable changes, train users are still enduring chaos with services often cancelled leaving them stranded.
Passengers at Slaithwaite and Marsden are some of the worst hit with trains frequently late or abandoned.
Meanwhile, train firm Northern is still in dispute with trade union the RMT, who have refused to lift a month of Saturday strikes amid a row about the role of the guard or conductor.
Despite government intervention last week saying it would support Northern keeping a second person on the train, talks between the union and the rail firm have again broken down.
The RMT said the government had been “grandstanding” without committing to funding the staffing and accused Northern of squandering a golden opportunity to make progress.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Frankly, it is ludicrous that no thought has been given to funding the so-called “commitments” broadcast by the Department for Transport in relation to this dispute.
“Instead of laying into the union at Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May should be forcing her ministers and the franchise holders to start talking seriously about the actual practicalities at the delivery end of the service.
“It is deeply disappointing that the company has failed this week to meet the union’s call to move the issues forwards. As a result the action continues as planned.”
Northern’s deputy managing director, Richard Allan, said they had gone into the talks with an “open mind” and wished to resume talks.
Transport for the North - a body of 20 authorities and business leaders slammed the state of the rail service.
In a statement it said it was time that train operators Northern and TransPennine Express delivered on the step change in performance they had been promising since last summer.
Meanwhile, the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) has published phase two of its inquiry into the timetable scandal, which recommends greater scrutiny of the interdependencies between timetables, franchises, infrastructure and rolling stock.
ORR and Inquiry Chairman, Professor Stephen Glaister said: “Passengers were let down by the rail industry on 20 May and the weeks that followed.
“We found systemic failures that needed to be resolved in order to reduce the possibility that passengers have to endure these conditions again.
Our recommendations will now mean that in every project, impact on passengers will be a central consideration – as it should always be.
“We are pleased with the improvements that have been made so far and expect our recommendations, which can be implemented immediately, to bring more benefits.
“More fundamental changes are needed in the longer term, which is the subject of the Williams Review. The ORR will contribute to that Review.”
Transport for the North’s statement said: “Despite assurances things would get better, passengers still find themselves on overcrowded trains and unable to depend on services.
“Members have consistently pushed to hold the industry to account and restore confidence in the network.”
Yesterday, they reiterated their position that there should be a second person on trains and that Northern and RMT should get back into negotiations in the interest of passengers. They also welcomed the Government’s position that it would help identify funding for this measure.
Transport for the North’s Chief Executive, Barry White, said: “The sentiment surrounding what the North’s passengers are going through remains.
“Performance levels are still poor and the strength of feeling that something needs to change is undiluted.
“We’re acting, providing a solid voice for the North; ensuring the issues faced are prominent in ongoing reviews of the industry; and securing compensation packages for those affected. There can be no let-up in the pace of change.
“Transport for the North is doing its bit, making the case for better investment in infrastructure. But we’re also holding the train operators to account.
“The December timetable must now start to deliver on the promises of the operators to increase reliability.”
Members also heard about a £15m enhancement package for Network Rail to spend in the North.