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COLUMN:‘Passengers should not have to pay for this,’ says council leader, Peter Box

Wakefield Council leader Coun Peter Box
Wakefield Council leader Coun Peter Box

Like far too many of you, I, and lots of my colleagues and family, have been affected by the ongoing fiasco on our railways.

We’re all feeling the impact. Not being able to get to work or meetings on time, missing transport connections at the other end and journeys times being unacceptably long.

On top of that is the extra money rail passengers have had to pay out for bus and taxi fares, just to get them where they need to be.

I also know some people who’ve been hit with extra childcare costs due to their travelling time increasing so much.

It beggars belief that this chaos has been allowed to continue for so long.

The emergency timetables introduced earlier this week are still to make any real impact. It is clear that the problem is by no means sorted – which makes us all want to know, when will it be?

I also want to know what is being put in place to prevent it happening again. Delays in infrastructure investment, overrunning engineering work, and a clear inability to manage a timetable change of this scale, have all contributed to the current crisis and leaves me very concerned that this is not a one-off. Like many other council leaders in the North, I firmly believe we should be upgrading rail connections between northern cities and making our road network better.

This would improve connectivity between our towns and cities giving clear social and economic benefits for this district. Just imagine if the £80billion plus, earmarked for HS2, was spent on local rail services that local people need and actually want, giving them reliable affordable transport. This debacle just strengthens our case for the devolution of power from Whitehall to the North. We need the powers to deliver the right investment in our transport infrastructure and to hold the train operators to account if they fail, particularly on the spectacular scale we are seeing at the moment.

I am now lobbying Northern Rail, Network Rail and the Government’s Transport Secretary to demand compensation for rail commuters, which they very much deserve.

Passengers should not, in any way, have to pay the price for Northern Rail’s mismanagement.