Calling for a freeze in TransPennine rail fares

TransPennine rail services are disgraceful. That’s what I told a Westminster Hall debate today.  I think the situation has got worse not better. Despite promises by the rail operator to improve both its timekeeping and its communications, this has not happened. I told my colleagues that scheduled services running from York to Scarborough were stopping at Malton and unloading all passengers there with no toilet facilities and no café. Passengers had no idea that they would be unloaded at Malton; they expected to go through to Scarborough. The least people might have expected was for TransPennine to have told them at York that they  would have to get out at Malton so they could have opted to stay in York until the arrival of a through train to Scarborough.

I totally understand the frustration of constituents who have been promised that new measures, such as changing the driver rotas, would improve the service. However, this has not happened. In fact November was the worst month this year for punctuality on the service through to the east coast—only 65% of trains arrived on time, and 20% of trains were defined as late, which is again the worst performance of the year. It is simply not acceptable and neither is their failure to improve their level of communication to passengers.

I appealed to the rail minister, Andrew Jones, to consider ways of giving TransPennine an incentive by preventing them from imposing planned increases in train fares until the service has improved. I also asked Mr Jones to put pressure on the regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, to include TransPennine in an ongoing inquiry into Northern and Govia Thameslink, which is focussed on the provision of communication services.

There has been some good news in terms of higher levels of investment in the North. The plans to double the frequency of journeys from York through to Scarborough by the end of next year has very much been welcomed by constituents and will include longer, better and new trains. However, much more needs to be done and there needs to be a long-term approach to transport investment in the North, which should include doubling investment in rail and roads across the North over the next 30 years. I look forward to seeing a “Crossrail for the North, or Northern Powerhouse Rail, connecting Liverpool to Manchester to Bradford to Leeds to York to Hull to Scarborough. It will transform opportunities right across the north, and that is exactly what we want. This would help put the North on a level playing with London, where investment is much greater leading to higher wages, improved productivity and greater prosperity for all.

In reply, the minister acknowledged that “2018 had been a year that passengers may wish to forget” and that, in September, they had appointed Richard George, a respected industry figure, to co-ordinate and lead efforts by the operators and Network Rail to look at performance across the North. Andrew Jones told us that “Mr George is reviewing the performance of the region’s rail network and making recommendations to improve reliability. His focus will be on operational improvement in the short and medium and will act on behalf of railway customers to assist organisations in delivering organisational improvements.” Mr Jones also said that “The Government recognises the importance of the Yorkshire rail network and that steps are being taken to improve it. More than that, I hope that in a year’s time passengers will be able to experience the change as investment comes on stream, and the benefits to match our vision for a 21st century railway in Yorkshire.”