Politically Speaking - Yvette Cooper MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford

We need investment in our railways now

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 12:59 pm
Updated Monday, 17th February 2020, 4:51 pm
Sacked: Northern Rail is being stripped of its franchise.

Commuters in our towns have faced appalling delays and cancellations for far too long.

I’ve stood with Knottingley commuters who were forced to get a taxi to work in Leeds because the trains failed, Normanton commuters stuck waiting over an hour when trains were crowded and Pontefract and Castleford commuters calling their boss to explain why they were going to be late in again.

After years of pressure, the Government has finally agreed to sack Northern Rail. It’s an important first step. Now we badly need our fair share of new investment, more carriages, more trains and station upgrades.

But I’ve been told by regional transport bosses that we aren’t likely to get any extra trains in the Five Towns for at least ten years, even though we’ve got loads of new housing, because there are no plans or budget for the infrastructure improvements we need locally.

This is outrageous. From Normanton, there’s only one train an hour into Leeds, even though loads of people work there and Normanton used to be one of the busiest stations in the country. Meanwhile stations like Monkhill have no disabled access and inadequate parking.

Yet the Government has just promised to find a colossal £100bn for HS2 even though its costs keep going up and up. HS2 doesn’t answer any of our local problems. On the Government’s own figures, 40 per cent of the benefits of HS2 go to London and only 10 per cent to Yorkshire - and even that 10 per cent doesn’t much help the Wakefield District or our towns. Putting all that money into HS2 while our towns continue to lose out is completely the wrong transport priority for the north. The Yorkshire economy would benefit more from proper local connections. The Government should properly invest in trains for northern towns instead.

Violent threats must have no place in public life.

Last week, the deputy chair of the Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford Conservative Association was sentenced to nine weeks in prison for sending menacing messages in which he said he had paid a local drug addict £100 to beat me up.

There is something very sad and grim about having to deal with this. Politics should be better than this. Political disagreement and debate are important, but violent threats, attempts at intimidation or aggression are poisonous.

As MPs we have a job to do, helping all our constituents, standing firm against any kind of threat and trying to show everyone kindness and respect. I won’t ever stop doing that.

The local Conservative Association has since written to me to express their regret and apologies for the actions of that individual and I strongly welcome their support. In Parliament I challenged the national Conservative Party to do the same as I was disappointed that they had failed to even condemn the threats and failed to take action when I told them about the problem in May last year.

This shouldn’t be about party politics. All of us have a responsibility to stand up for a better, kinder politics - from the prime minister and party leaders to MPs, candidates and local activists. I’m calling on all parties to agree a joint code of conduct against intimidation – something the Jo Cox Foundation has called for. It’s not the British way to threaten violence, we should be coming together instead.