Rail system is confused and fragmented
2 August 2018
Commenting on this morning's appearance of representatives from Network Rail, Northern and TransPennine at today's West Yorkshire Combined Authority meeting, Cllr Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire's representative on the Transport for the North Board, said: "It is good that the operators and Network Rail apologised for the chaos that's been inflicted on passengers since May and acknowledged that lessons need to be learned, however the real issue that emerged today is just how confused and fragmented our rail system is.
"Indeed, the only thing that is clear is the total lack of accountability among the companies charged with running our railways, with no one person taking ultimate responsibility for ensuring our rail system works for passengers and our economy.
Most disturbingly, although we are now getting a clearer understanding of what went catastrophically wrong when the new timetables were introduced, neither the operators nor Network Rail were able to provide reassurance that what they are planning will improve the current abysmal service levels and deliver the promised improvements to the network and services.
People across our region and the North are being repeatedly let down and it is having a real cost in terms of growth, jobs and the economy not to mention a personal cost to those affected. In the absence of anyone taking control, we need Transport for the North to be given the powers to take on the role now, before further damage is done.
We will be making these points to the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, this afternoon as well as restating the urgent need for significant investment in the North's transport infrastructure.
Responding to Rail Minister Chris Grayling's statement to the BBC today that his concern is to make sure the trains work, Cllr Blake said: "It's encouraging the Secretary of State finally recognises it's his responsibility to ensure the rail system works effectively.
"However everyone recognises the current state of affairs is not fit for purpose. The travelling public of the North feel very let down by the events of the last few weeks.
"It is inevitable changes must be made to the way the rail system works to ensure long term improvements and to provide reassurance the recent catastrophic events on the trains will never be repeated.
"Bringing decision making powers with adequate resources down to a local level is the best way of achieving the improvements needed."
Cllr Hinchcliffe, Chair of the Combined Authority, said: "This morning's meeting underlined the confused way the rail industry is structured. It's hugely fragmented and therefore none of them has an incentive or overall responsibility for the bigger picture which should be about putting the rail customer first.
"This also creates the absurd situation where passengers are paying to compensate themselves through the taxpayer-funded Network Rail while the privately-owned rail operators are investing profits in the state-run European railways, where their parent companies are located.
"The Combined Authority will be considering the outcomes of Blake-Johnson Review in the autumn, at which point I hope operators and Network Rail will be in a better position to give assurances to elected members and the public that this will not happen again."