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Raw deal for Five Towns in rail fiasco

Commuters at Wakefield Westgate railway station as Northern Rail introduce a new timetable. Picture Scott Merrylees
Commuters at Wakefield Westgate railway station as Northern Rail introduce a new timetable. Picture Scott Merrylees

Northern rail timetable changes that caused misery for passengers have been branded a ‘joke’ and have left the Five Towns worse off, an MP said.

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper said she had to fight to keep a vital morning train from Normanton running and the service may still be scrapped in December.

Rail passenger Christine Major.

Rail passenger Christine Major.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was quizzed by MPs – including from his own party – in the House of Commons as calls for his resignation were stepped-up.

Delayed trains, cancellations and sweeping timetable reforms are some of the issues that faced passengers using Northern’s services when a temporary timetable came into effect on Monday.

Ms Cooper said: “The trains are a mess, Northern rail’s timetable change was a joke, and northern towns and cities are being let down. Services for the Five Towns have got worse not better.

“On one of our busiest tea time routes Northern rail have been sending trains without enough carriages to fit everyone. And they’re squashed and standing up on horrid 1980s Pacer trains which are not fit for purpose.

Rail passenger Callum Blanchfield.

Rail passenger Callum Blanchfield.

“Across the country ticket prices have gone up by a third in recent years, even though local trains have become more dilapidated and crowded. It’s just adding insult to injury for customers.

“Chris Grayling said in the House of Commons on Monday ‘We need to establish who is directly responsible’ and it wasn’t just the Labour benches who shouted back ‘you are’. This crisis has been a long time in the making.

“What did he think would happen when Yorkshire only gets £190 in Transport funding per head but London gets £1,900?

“We need an overhaul of Britain’s transport system – not just to end the privatised franchise chaos, but to get Yorkshire a better transport deal, not a deal that just works for London.”

Yvette Cooper MP.

Yvette Cooper MP.

Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett said there was already a problem with underinvestment in our district’s transport system but now passengers had to deal with “incompetence” from private train companies.

He said: “It’s time we put the interests of passengers at the heart of our transport system and stopped letting private train companies take this country for a ride.”

Mr Grayling announced a special compensation scheme for passengers who have faced misery in the past two weeks and an independent inquiry into the rail industry’s failure to properly introduce new timetables.

He said he was “clear that the industry must and will be held to account” for “major failures”.

At Wakefield Westgate station passengers were frustrated with unreliable services.

Callum Blanchfield, 27, travels from Normanton to Saltaire via Leeds but has decided to cycle part of the route instead.

He said: “I don’t think we get a good deal in the north. Even the Pacer trains we have are made from old bus parts.”

Christine Major, 32, said: “It is abysmal.

“There aren’t enough carriages when people are trying to get to work at 7am or 8am and people end up getting left behind. “Victoria Wilson, 36, said: “Delays happen quite regularly. It is worrying. I spent last night checking online and then straight on the app this morning.

“There’s not a lot of communication.

“I am quite savvy but it does make me worry about my parents and elderly people.”

Northern managing director David Brown said passengers would “hopefully” begin to see “considerable improvement” within two or three days following the introduction of the new timetable.