Letter to the Editor of The Sunday Times: Get our trains back on track

11 June 2018

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse, wrote to The Sunday Times regarding the ‘unacceptable’ delays and cancellations of Northern Rail services in the North of England. 71 Northern business leaders and council chiefs signed the letter. Other than Mr Murison, signatories of this letter included James Mitchinson, editor of the Yorkshire Post; Gary Neville, footballer; Chris Oglesby, CEO of Bruntwood; Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of Leeds City Region LEP; Sandy Lindsay, CEO of Tangerine Communications; and Henry Brookes, managing director of Tatton Estates. See the letter and full list of signatories on The Times website here.

Over the past two weeks in the north of England we have seen an unacceptable level of cancelled and delayed trains. Travellers have missed vital appointments and been given written warnings at work; businesses have struggled to cope; and public services have been put under strain. The anger is mounting.

The failure of Northern Rail to be ready for the new timetables, the delays to the completion of engineering works by Network Rail and the lack of government action have led to this debacle. We now call on the government to address it by granting Transport for the North (TfN) full powers to manage all northern infrastructure.

Only by TfN being accountable for the performance of Network Rail and the train companies can the north truly take control of its own destiny. Without greater authority TfN will not be able to supervise delivery of the north’s first strategic transport plan and avoid repeats of the current fiasco.

In addition, the government needs to work with Northern Rail to establish a comprehensive, straightforward passenger compensation scheme. This must happen now.

Even when things return to normal, the railways across the Northern Powerhouse region are not good enough to attract investment and increase productivity at the pace required to ensure we become an equal partner in the UK economy. By the time of this autumn’s budget, we want the government to commit itself to implementing the TfN’s Northern Powerhouse Rail strategic outline business case in full, guaranteeing that northern businesses will secure growth and our children can use a fit-for-purpose modern rail network.