Friday, February 3, 2023

Northern Mayors meet Transport Secretary to level with Government on rail chaos

Ministers must act to end months of rail chaos that is causing misery for millions across the North, West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said today, ahead of crunch talks with the government (30 November).

Ms Brabin will “level with” with Transport Secretary Mark Harper when they meet today and say that “levelling up” at a bare minimum means ensuring that Northerners can get to work and education opportunities.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “Enough is enough – the Transport Secretary has promised to get a grip on this crisis, and we welcome that. But the people of the North need more than warm words – we need a concrete plan that will get our rail network back on track.

“This chaos is having a devastating impact on the Northern economy and our attempts to rebuild from the pandemic, while we try and support our communities against the cost-of-living crisis with record levels of inflation.

The Secretary of State is the person who can step in and has a fresh opportunity to help solve the problem, and that’s exactly what we’ll be telling him today.”

Today’s talks come after the Mayor of West Yorkshire convened an emergency meeting last month, which brought together the Metro Mayors of Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, South Yorkshire and North of the Tyne. The Mayors – who represent nine million people across the North of England – agreed a joint action plan and demanded a meeting with the new Transport Secretary Mark Harper.

The Northern Mayors called on Mr Harper to get an urgent grip of the situation and urged the minister to get operators and unions round the table to get a deal done on rest day working and to put Transpennine Express on a six-month probation to raise performance before its contract is up for renewal in May 2023.

Rail operators in the North have been cancelling thousands of journeys – leaving passengers unable to get to jobs, education or see their families. Some cancellations are made at the very-last minute, leaving commuters stranded on platforms and stations, and thousands more journeys are experiencing shocking delays with trains sometimes up to an hour late.

The Mayor is also concerned about suggestions that rail operators – already failing to deliver reliable services – have been asked to make savings of 10% to operating costs. These cuts will have a far more drastic impact on services in the North than in London and the South East which enjoys much more regular services.

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