Improving local rail services is urgent, says Hugo
Local Labour candidate Hugo Fearnley has thrown his weight behind the local campaign to improve rail services to and from Scarborough.
Figures this week show that less than half – only 45% – of Northern’s services across the region run to timetable. Promised upgrades to Scarborough services have suffered numerous delays. There is now a growing local campaign for Transpennine to be stripped of the franchise.
‘Train travel here is expensive and unreliable. Local people can’t get to hospital appointments, to college, or to work on time’, said Hugo. ‘There’s no point in having shiny new trains if they don’t run on time, or at all.’
‘Fixing rail services is vital to commuters, it’s key to regenerating the local economy and of course tackling the climate crisis. Good coastal connections would deliver a huge boost to tourism and business in general.’
Hugo says that Labour will run the railway in the interest of passengers rather than private profit, by bringing it into public ownership and providing the proper investment in transport that will put our country back on track.
‘Re-nationalising the railways is very popular among the public and not as expensive as it sounds. The train operating companies are only worth the value of their contract – the rolling stock is leased. And of course Network Rail is now publicly owned, after failing as a private company.’
‘What we really can’t afford is continuing to pick up the pieces from private-sector failure. The collapse of the East Coast franchise two years ago ultimately cost taxpayers £2 billion.’
The trail of broken promises by private operators
In December 2017, TransPennine Express promised 13 brand-new five-carriage trains running between Scarborough and Liverpool, phased in from autumn 2018. Arriva Rail North later announced that Scarborough-York services would step up from hourly to half hourly, from December 2019. There would be better connectivity, too, with new early morning departures and late services for Scarborough. Altogether, there would be 700,000 extra seats per year for those travelling to and from Scarborough.
The 2018 deadline shifted to spring 2019, with TPE blaming a software fault with a key on-board system. It moved back to July 2019, then into August. The first commercial service of Nova 3 trains arrived in Scarborough on 24 August 2019.
After a series of technical problems, TPE confirmed in October that its brand new Nova trains serving Scarborough were being withdrawn. ‘An update has been prepared and the trains are expected to be back in service soon.’
TPE is owned by First Group. The franchise runs until 2023 with an option to extend for a further two years.
The introduction of new Northern services between Scarborough and York via Malton has been delayed. A new service was to start in December 2019, but its postponement to May 2020 was announced in October.
Added on to TPE’s hourly service, this would mean two trains an hour on the line. It would also significantly reduce overcrowding at peak times, with seating capacity increasing from 169 to 400 an hour in each direction.
Northern blames the Spanish train manufacturer, CAF, for late delivery. CAF’s UK director said his company is working hard to catch up.
Northern spectacularly fails to deliver on its key performance measures, notably train cancellations, Sunday services, and introducing new services. The franchise is effectively in special measures, though it has not been cancelled.
The latest news (Yorkshire Post, 14 November 2019) on Northern’s performance figures show that between 13 October and 9 November, only 45.4 per cent of its trains across northern England arrived within a minute of their scheduled time. In other words, fewer than half the trains run by Yorkshire’s biggest rail operator arrived on time.
The Yorkshire Post editorial accompanying this report says:
‘[This] marks a new low for Northern and passengers are entitled to ask what is being done to make the trains upon which they are obliged to rely serve them properly. The shortcomings of Northern itself, with its fleet of reviled Pacers, are being compounded by the problems in Network Rail’s maintenance programme, which is aggravating delays. And presiding over both is a Department for Transport characterised by a lack of leadership and accountability.
‘In a little under a month, we will have a new Government. Putting the interests of passengers first on the railways must be amongst its most urgent tasks.’
Northern train operating company is a subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains. Its contract runs until 2025 with an additional year dependent on performance.
The new campaign
Support is snowballing for the campaign launched earlier this month by James and Kim Hodgson, Filey hoteliers, with so far about 500 disgruntled passengers in contact. Mr Hodgson wants to see TPE stripped of its franchise.
‘TPE do of course have a catalogue of excuses but the fact of the matter is that if they can’t get drivers and guards in the right place at the right time they are not fit to run a train service or in fact any business where staffing is critical to performance. TPE will also say that they have invested £500m in new trains but no point having shiny new trains if they don’t run on time or at all.
‘In short, the train service between Scarborough and York is a shocking and appalling service which if allowed to continue will cause irreparable damage to the local area from people not being able to get to and from work in York, to and from Manchester, make connections to London, or get to Hospital for treatment and appointments. It will damage the tourism industry and add cars to the already very busy A64 (which itself is not fit for purpose) at a time when people should be using public transport to reduce their carbon foot-print.’