As someone who has to travel to and from London every week, I can attest to the terrible state of our railways. Although the situation has got much worse in recent months, our railways have been lacklustre for many years now.
Even before the emergency timetable and skeleton train service, trains would regularly be delayed or cancelled and, when they did arrive, the trains were old hand-me-downs from the South with barely any carriages.
To add insult to injury, rail fares have continued to rise year on year, whilst the service provided has worsened. It is no wonder that international train companies refer to the UK as ‘Treasure Island’.
I have lost count of the number of times that I have contacted Government Ministers to highlight the failings of our railway network and the need for investment. Only recently, when the government was proposing to build a third runway for Heathrow, I made it clear that not one more penny should be spent on expanding London’s air capacity until the North has a functioning and effective rail system.
I joined with a number of MPs from across the region to voice our concerns, and the concerns of our constituents, that Northern Rail was not up to the job of managing our rail network. The Government has responded to this outcry by launching an inquiry into Northern Rail’s disastrous handling of the recent timetable change.
However, even if Northern Rail is stripped of its contract for our region, under the current government, the franchise will just be given to another company that puts profit before service, and our railways will stumble along as usual.
I believe that there needs to be a significant change to the way that our railways are run in this country. Investment needs to be provided for the transport networks outside of London, and the profit motive must be removed.