Tom Richmond: Why under-fire rail boss needs to take a trip to meet his customers. Here’s the invite
[from the Yorkshire Post, Saturday 11 August 2018]
The managing director of troubled train operator TransPennine Express, Leo Goodwin, has now broken his silence on the region’s rail scandal, after some prompting, in last week’s column.
He issued a half-hearted apology, which The Yorkshire Post published on Tuesday, in which he suggested that many of the problems on the main line between Leeds and Manchester were down to Network Rail and Northern.
If he thinks this evasiveness – straight from the Macavity handbook written by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling – is sufficient to get him off the hook for the time being, then he, and his PR team, should think again.
The column challenge came after commuters from Marsden and Slaithwaite contacted me about the hundreds – yes, hundreds – of trains that have been cancelled, or not reached their intended destination since timetable changes came into effect in late May.
Not only is this causing great inconvenience for travellers, but tourism in the beautiful Colne Valley is now being hit. B&B owner Jane Walker said it was easier for some guests to travel from New Mexico to Manchester than it was from the North West city to her village.
Yet did Mr Goodwin respond to this? No, he did not. Has he answered letters from residents, and campaigners, who can no longer rely upon the train? Not according to all those who continue to get in touch with this newspaper.
And what did TransPennine Express do when Mr Goodwin’s piece was published in print, and online, on Tuesday? Sarah Humphries, the media relations manager, emailed me and requested that a photo be used of one of their new trains. Is this all they care about?
So here’s another challenge after I wrote a column on Thursday calling for a series of customer service commitments to be included in all future rail franchises.
How about Mr Goodwin meeting rail campaigners in Marsden and Slaithwaite in person so he has a better understanding of their anguish and hardship?
There are two problems – Mr Goodwin’s willingness, given his track record as one of the rail industry’s faceless bureaucrats, and whether he will actually be able to get there on one of his own trains. A real public servant would readily agree. I’ll report back next week.