The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has apologised to the public for the summer chaos across the North’s rail network.
The admission came as part of special live episode of the BBC’s long-running current affairs programme Inside Out, to be broadcast tonight.
The programme will investigate the rail chaos that has dominated headlines and cost the northern economy millions.
“I’m really sorry for the disruption we’ve had – it’s been a huge frustration to me because this was the introduction of a major new investment that didn’t work out at the start.”
“I feel deeply sorry for the passengers affected. I’m sorry passengers were affected but I’m not sorry that we are putting money in to sort out both the problems this summer but more particularly the long term problems of the railways in the north.”
Grayling continued to talk about the investment in railways in the North: “The North needs and deserves better railways – it’s getting brand new trains, it’s getting investment, it doesn’t happen overnight, but the North needs better railways and it’s getting them.
“We’re now in a position in September where the timetable has stabilised. I’m not saying it’s perfect. We will, this autumn, see the start of all the new trains arriving. Every single train in the North of England is either being replaced by a brand new train or completely refurbished.”
When asked about whether the privatised railway no longer works, Grayling said: “It’s not about ownership – the challenge we’ve got is our railway system is busting at the seams. It’s carrying today more people than it did in Victorian times on a network that’s half the size. Passenger numbers since privatisation have doubled. It wouldn’t matter if it was run by the government or a private company. It’s about integration of track and train, it’s about smarter working, and new technology.
“The Trans Pennine railway line, in the modernisation, is going to be Britain’s first all-digital mainline railway using new technology to do a better job and create a more reliable railway. So it’s about how the railway is run, not about who owns it.
The live episode of Inside Out will also include a panel discussion with guests including: Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister; Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham; Lynsey Hanley, passenger and journalist; and Robert Nisbet from the Rail Delivery Group.
And, as part of the live show, Inside Out has challenged three of its presenters to a time trial from Liverpool to Newcastle to put transport in the North to the test. Each of the presenters travelled via different methods of transport to establish which route is the quickest, easiest and most cost effective.
The Inside Out time trial, which took place on September 4th, saw the three presenters of Inside Out, from each of the regions in the North, travel via plane, train and car. They started at the BBC Radio Merseyside studios in Liverpool and ended at the BBC Newcastle studios.
All three presenters experienced delays and problems along the way and the outcome will be revealed in Monday night’s live programme.
Chris Jackson, who presents Inside Out in the North East and Cumbria, boarded a plane from Liverpool John Lennon airport to Newcastle via Belfast International airport as there are no direct flights from Liverpool to Newcastle.
Chris said: “I thought I’d been given a bonkers route to get to Newcastle but despite that I assumed flying would be a breeze. But it turned out pretty stressful. Having to clear security and the attendant queues twice meant running to the gates and a late departure threatened our tight connection time. Although actual flying time only totalled 70 minutes the airport procedures made it a pretty manic journey.”
Keeley Donovan, presenter of Inside Out in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, drove from Liverpool to Newcastle, travelling via the M62, M1 and A1(M).
Keeley said: “I was happy to be given the car – suspecting it would be the easiest and quickest way as that’s the mode of transport that most people would choose to make the journey. For the most part I enjoyed my journey. I didn’t have to pack lightly, the motorway network across the north of England is good, I could listen to the radio and was comfortable in the vehicle but then I ran into the traffic jams and congestion which were very frustrating.”
And Inside Out North West presenter Dianne Oxberry travelled by train from Liverpool Lime Street to Newcastle station, changing in York.
Dianne said: “I saw the best and very worst of rail travel. The first leg was scenic and stress free; the second leg saw diversions, delays, cancellations, no information offered to passengers, tickets then not valid and a one hour journey standing packed like sardines. As the most costly journey, rail passengers in the North deserve better.”
Executive producer, Nicola Addyman said: “We want to closely examine what travelling around the north is really like for passengers and devote a whole programme to discussing the problems and holding to account those responsible for running our railways and transport policy.”
Inside Out Live will be jointly presented by Chris Jackson, Dianne Oxberry and Keeley Donovan and will be broadcast across the North of England on Monday September 10th at 7.30pm on BBC One.
The programme will also be available to watch on the BBC iPlayer nationwide.