Column: Rail Chaos

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 8th June:

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen utter chaos on our railways.

Amongst other issues, the introduction of a new timetable has seen mass cancellations and delays on Northern-operated rail services.

People here in Barnsley and South Yorkshire have suffered, as services right across the north have been affected.

Up until last weekend alone, there had reportedly been well over 2,200 services cancelled alongside seemingly endless delays – and the figure has grown since.

Too many people have already been affected, and with weeks of further delays and problems anticipated it may get worse.

Quite frankly, it’s an absolute disgrace.

People have missed vital appointments and meetings, or been left stranded in stations for hours at a time.

Others haven’t made it in to work at all – I’ve even heard stories of workers left with no choice but to use some of their annual leave allowance to make up the time they’re missing.

Sadly, however, this is just a further example of the experiences most people have had whilst using rail services here in South Yorkshire.

Even before the recent chaos, services have been regularly delayed.

The carriages are often cramped and overcrowded.

The stock can be so old and out of date it’s sometimes like stepping back in time.

And what’s more, prices are continuing to rise – a monthly ticket for commuters between Barnsley and Leeds now costs over £185.

But this is what we’ve come to expect from the Government and a Transport Secretary who’ve been asleep at the wheel for too long.

Let’s not forget it was around this time last year that the Transport boss Chris Grayling cancelled the electrification of key lines in the north – including here in South Yorkshire – before supporting a new Crossrail project in London worth an estimated £30bn that same week.

Or that transport infrastructure investment per head is expected to be five times higher in London than the North from 2018.

This rail shambles has gone on for too long.

It’s time the Government stepped in to sort out the mess, or stepped aside and allowed someone who understands the transport problems we face up here in the north to do so.