Passengers are putting up with daily misery on the North’s railways – it’s intolerable, potentially unsafe and cannot go on. That was the message from Transport for the North’s board members as they met today in Preston.
With a timetable change planned to come into effect on Sunday, now is the time that train operators Northern and TransPennine Express need to deliver on the step change in performance they have been promising since summer.
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. Today, 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.
Members were joined by Andrew Jones MP in his role as the new Rail Minister. They also heard from Keith Williams – the independent chair tasked with leading the national review into the railway – on the day a call for evidence was launched. It was clear that lessons must be learnt from what has happened in the North and that passenger experience was paramount for board members.
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 £15 million enhancement package for Network Rail to spend in the North announced today. Transport for the North will work with Network Rail and passenger groups to decide how best the money should be spent in order to improve passenger journeys.
Members welcomed progress made to roll-out smart ticketing across the North, with Transport for the North’s Integrated Smart Travel programme already live for season ticket holders on initial routes.