Thank you to everyone in Lancaster who’s contacted me about the current travel chaos on our railways.
On Monday evening I was granted a ‘strictly timed 10 minute meeting’ with the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson.
I began by stressing that this crisis is not just about the new timetable. Passengers in Lancashire and across Northern’s network have faced years of poor service, cancellations, over-crowding, lack of investment and being forced to travel on old trains.
I shared with him your stories – constituents who’ve lost their jobs or been given final written warnings. The mum who was two hours late picking her little boy up from school – and another Mum and her toddler who were on a delayed train for three hours with toilets that were out of order. Her little boy has refused to travel on a train since. Constituents with disabilities are having an awful time. Rail replacement buses don’t have stop announcements so the blind and partially sighted can’t use them. Similarly other disabled constituents are struggling because they can’t get wheelchairs onto the rail replacement buses. Whilst Mr Johnson was sympathetic, he offered no solutions.
I also asked Mr Johnson if he would be assessing the economic impact this crisis is having on the northern economy. His reply? Its “early days”. Does he mean it’s too soon to assess the damage because there’s worse to come? So much for the government bleating on about its commitment to the Northern Powerhouse. Its actions, not words that matter.
I’ve also requested a remuneration/compensation package for all travellers whether they hold a season ticket or otherwise. Mr Johnson was reluctant to commit himself to anything until he had negotiated with the train operator.
It’s clear now that rail services across the country are in meltdown as a result of the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s complete failure to prepare for the transition to a new national railway timetable.
I’ll be putting my concerns in writing to Jo Johnson and, with the permission from all of you who have written to me, I’ll send him copies of the emails I have received. Please keep me informed of your travel difficulties by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.