Representatives of Local Rail User Groups on the Manchester to Huddersfield line met with Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport and Andrew Jones, Rail Minister and MP for Harrogate at a meeting in the House of Commons on Wednesday 5th December to inform him first hand of the effect that the poor service was having on people’s lives and to challenge him to take strong action to rectify the situation.
The meeting was also attended by Debbie Abrahams MP for Saddleworth, Jonathon Reynolds MP for Mossley and Thelma Walker MP for Colne Valley, Cllrs Rob Walker & Donna Bellamy (Colne Valley) and Martyn Bolt (Mirfield) & Chris Roberts of Rail North Partnership.
When the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, claimed that a recent review of the timetable chaos since May 2018 had shown that services had improved there were looks of disbelief on the faces of the Rail User Group representatives around the table.
Local Rail User Group representatives challenged Mr Grayling and gave examples of how bad the local train services have been since the May 2018 timetable change:
- out of 2611 stations nationally, Mossley, Greenfield, Marsden and Slaithwaite are in the bottom 10 ranking of stations for service reliability, with Mossley and Slaithwaite in the bottom two places.
- in the 12 weeks to 04/12/18 of trains arriving on time there were at Greenfield only 8%, Marsden only 9% and Mossley & Slaithwaite only 4%.
- in the 12 weeks to 04/12/18 trains cancelled were: Greenfield 4%, Marsden 4%, Mossley 5% and Slaithwaite 6%. Despite previous promises that when trains were cancelled Special Stop Orders whereby other trains would make extra stops would be implemented yet this has rarely happened.
- The effect of this poor service on the ability of people to get to and from work, business in general, additional road traffic due to people abandoning rail travel were all hammered home.
- It was also made very clear that some people were considering moving house, having to change jobs, or had been disciplined by employers for lateness.
The Secretary of State for Transport seemed stunned by this evidence.
He stated that it was completely unacceptable on an hourly service for two consecutive services to be cancelled causing a three hour gap.
The lack of disabled access at Marsden and other stations was also discussed.
Chris Grayling also said that the recently announced £3bn. rail investment for the north would help the trans-Pennine route, but he could not say whether the scope of the upgrade would be sufficient to provide two trains per hour and full disabled access at Greenfield, Mossley, Marsden and Slaithwaite.
Chris Grayling promised to arrange for Rail User Group representatives and MPs to meet with Richard George, the Independent Trouble Shooter appointed by the Department for Transport.