I beg to move,
That this House has considered the performance of train operating companies in Yorkshire.
It is truly an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) and for Colne Valley (Thelma Walker) and the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) for co-sponsoring this important debate.
Back in June, I stood in the Commons Chamber in a rail debate and my opening words were, “What a mess”. Six months on, I have to repeat that statement: what a mess.
Seven months ago, I had a meeting with Northern rail just ahead of the implementation of the revised timetables. I was unequivocally assured that services would improve and that that would be the answer to a lot of the issues that my constituents were experiencing. I was told that the new timetables had been stress-tested and that everything would be fine. Instead, what we got was absolute, total and utter chaos—and I do not use that word lightly. Trains were delayed and cancelled day after day after day. People were late for work, school and college. Vital medical appointments and even funerals were missed, all because of a half-baked plan that was obviously unworkable from day one. In August, I met TransPennine Express and was given yet more warm words and platitudes, but once again there was very little action.
In my constituency, in the six-month aftermath of the May timetable, Dewsbury and Ravensthorpe stations were in the bottom 10 of all smaller stations in the UK for performance: the eighth and third worst respectively. My neighbouring constituency, Huddersfield, was in same bottom 10 of the league table for larger stations. Minister, I will not allow my constituents to receive such treatment from your Government. Things have to get better.
The picture across the whole of Yorkshire has been bleak, hence the title of the debate. Not a single station in Yorkshire was in the top 100 best performers. I am sure the Minister knows that, given that he also represents a Yorkshire constituency. According to The Yorkshire Post and On Time Trains, only 29% of services had been on time at York and Huddersfield stations since the May timetables were introduced. If we look at the 100 busiest stations in the UK, eight out of the top 10 worst stations for on-time performance in the past six months are within the so-called northern powerhouse, with York and Huddersfield being the two worst in the whole country. If we look at all stations in the UK, Slaithwaite, in the neighbouring constituency of Colne Valley—my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley will talk a little more about this later—has the worst service performance of any station. Again, eight of the 10 worst performing stations in the UK are within the northern powerhouse. In contrast, nine of the top 10 best performing stations in the country are in London. This country does not revolve around the capital city of London; there is much more beyond the M25.
Neither is the picture over recent months greatly improved. Using data from trains.im, the monthly performance figures show the region’s two biggest providers, Northern and TransPennine, offered an abysmal service in November, with only 67% and 65% of trains on time respectively—easily as bad as at the height of the timetable crisis and among the worst in recent years. Apart from Brexit and the NHS, this is the biggest item that comes into my mailbox. I do not know how many times I have seen pictures of timetable boards in various stations with lists of cancelled or delayed trains. It really is not good enough.
I must commend The Yorkshire Post—not always the biggest fan of my party—on the work it has done on this issue, which has been absolutely fantastic and is very much appreciated by the many beleaguered commuters who experience the chaos. Earlier this month, it reported that almost 80 trains a day were being cancelled, with overcrowded services frequently running with reduced numbers of carriages. A new timetable, implemented from last week, thankfully offers some small hope of improvement. The first week went better than the first week of the previous timetable, but that would not be hard to beat. When compared to figures over recent months, significant improvement is yet to be seen. From the available data this month, some 77.7% of Northern’s trains have been running on time, up a feeble 0.1% from May’s mayhem. TransPennine has achieved only 73.4% of trains on time this month, down on the 75.5% achieved in May, but up marginally on figures from June and July.
Passengers are understandably weary of promised improvements, and the Rail Minister’s assurance that the situation has stabilised will undoubtedly be met with a degree of cynicism. For six months, my constituents have been given nothing but empty promises and false assurances. It was bad enough through the summer, but we can add to their misery the recent dark, freezing cold mornings on station platforms that are less than adequate, many with little shelter from the elements, and barely fit for purpose. Compensation was promised, but for many it was never received. Hours were spent filling in forms to no avail. I have heard of rail users who purchase their tickets through corporate reduction schemes being refused compensation. Apparently, because they get a discount on their travel, they should not be entitled to refunds, despite the fact that many pay more than £1,000 a year and the level of inconvenience and lost work hours were the same for them as for everybody else.
An expanded compensation scheme has been announced this week for Northern’s customers, starting with 25% for 15 to 30 minutes’ delay. That is reportedly funded by the Government, not the privately owned operator. Sadly, it is far too little far too late. Why was the money not invested in our rail services to prevent the need for such an enhanced compensation scheme? Even as Northern warns that passengers will not see an improvement in services until May 2019, unbelievably its fares are set to rise by 3.2% in the new year. It is clear that regulated fares should be frozen into the new year. I call on the Minister to back the Transport Committee’s suggestion of discounts for those renewing their season tickets for 2019, meaning no price increase.
My constituent, Sophie, has been commuting from Mirfield in my constituency to Leeds every weekday for the past three years. Sophie is partially sighted and has to rely on public transport to get to work. She wrote to me last week to express her many grave concerns. She spoke about the issues at Mirfield station, which I have been raising for more than three years, and how the platforms lack basic facilities, with one being completely inaccessible to people with disabilities. Indeed, the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability points out that across Yorkshire and the Humber, 33% of train stations are not step-free, making them inaccessible for many disabled people.
Sophie also reports a lack of appropriate shelter against the cold winter elements and how nearly every morning she has to queue to buy a ticket when she arrives in Leeds because the train is so overcrowded that the conductor has not been able to pass through the train, and the one new ticket machine at Mirfield is on the opposite platform and is often out of order. Sophie feels incredibly grateful that she is still in employment. She says that it is solely down to her having an understanding boss who has afforded her the flexibility to work around the many train delays that she has had to endure. The past six months have been hell for Sophie and many people like her.
I also want to mention my constituent, Alex, who works near Manchester. He gets the train every morning from Dewsbury. He has had to take nearly two thirds of next year’s annual leave allocation because of the trains’ lack of punctuality. He feels he is getting to the point where he has to consider whether it is worth making that journey to work every day.
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Alex’s case exemplifies the bigger point that if we are to rebalance our economy successfully, we need to get the rail infrastructure right between the great northern cities of Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. Does she agree that that requires investment in the long term, and, in the short term, making the best of what we have? Does she also agree that it is an outrage that one in four of the rail services scheduled from Sheffield to Leeds last Monday, for example, failed to arrive on time?
Order. I remind Members that interventions are supposed to be brief, particularly when so many would like to speak.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I absolutely agree. A very similar level of service is being delivered to my constituents, so I fully sympathise with his constituents.
Late or cancelled trains have a wide impact. Many of us consider a train to be something that gets us from A to B. Of course that is true, but the disruption is also having a significant impact on people’s mental health. They have no idea whether they will be able to get to work, and can get into quite serious trouble when they are late for the fourth day running. People might rely on them, such as clients or customers. They do not know whether they will get home in time to put their children to bed or see their partner. That is having a massive effect on family life and on social mobility, as not everybody drives. It is also affecting employment opportunities. I have spoken to a number of people who now say that they cannot get to work. They do not drive, so using the train is the only option, and it is not worth the stress.
Our region’s railways are among the least reliable in the country. Ironically, this week Northern rail unveiled a new advertising campaign, designed with safety in mind, to prevent passengers from boarding the trains as the doors are closing. The advert states that the train will depart the station “to the second”. If only! As I see it, there are two major issues with that. First, someone in the advertising department either has a very strange sense of humour or has severely misjudged the situation, given that so many trains have not departed on time during the last six months. Secondly, the campaign is in preparation for when Northern rail removes guards from trains, thus compromising customer safety and further eroding the service on offer to rail users in the north.
As a result of the chaos, many of those who drive, as I alluded to earlier, are turning back to their cars as a means of transport. Falling passenger numbers require action to boost confidence in and accessibility to the rail network. That has sadly not been forthcoming. Rail in the north is still very much the poor relation of services across the country. Recent research from the Institute for Public Policy Research North revealed that spending on transport in Yorkshire and the Humber fell by more per head from 2016-17 to 2017-18 than anywhere else in the country. It reported that, last year, spending per head on transport in our region was £315, which is more than three times less than the £1,019 spent in London. It is simply unacceptable that promised investment has been scrapped, downgraded or delayed, while money is funnelled into London and the south-east.
When it comes to the causes of the poor service, leaves on the line can be blamed for only so much. Indeed, when discussing compensation for rail passengers on BBC News this week, the Minister admitted that the infrastructure is not there to cope. Work to electrify key lines in the north-west was supposed to be finished two years ago, yet delays to that have had a knock-on effect across the north and have been blamed by Northern rail for its postponement of planned service improvements in Yorkshire.
The Minister blames decades of decline for the infrastructure’s inability to cope with network growth, yet it seems likely that the Transport Secretary is set to back a deeply flawed plan for the trans-Pennine route. If the plans that have been mooted go ahead, the tunnels will not be big enough to carry modern freight trains, and insufficient track is planned to allow faster trains to overtake slow ones.
My hon. Friend and neighbour is making a great speech. I must apologise—I have just sat on a broken-down train for half an hour, so she has even more sympathy than usual. She is right: what happened to the northern powerhouse? What happened to those promises of investment in our region?
I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour for that intervention, and I look forward to the Minister’s response to that question.
Frankly, what we have heard from our Transport Secretary, who recently said that he does not “do trains”, shows an appalling lack of ambition for the north. It will do nothing to address the problems of reliability, as both passenger and freight demand on the lines increase. Ministers need to get to grips with much-needed rail improvements. The system is clearly broken, and local rail users know that more than a mediocre compensation scheme is needed to fix it. Passengers need to know that when there is a delay or cancellation they will receive proper compensation, and Northern rail’s expanded delay repay scheme announced this week is welcome. However, the scheme is reportedly funded by the Government. Going forward, it is not acceptable that the taxpayer foots the bill for the failing system, while shareholders continue to be put first.
What people really need is to know is that, rare exceptions aside, their trains will be reliable and punctual. The Transport Secretary has overseen review after review of the rail network, but it is still clear that the franchise system and the separation of infrastructure and operations simply do not work. Resources are not being targeted to where they are most needed, and there is an overarching lack of accountability. The Transport Secretary has cancelled massive projects such as Crossrail for the north, but has still been able to dig up money for London and the south-east—all while Yorkshire saw the biggest fare increase in the country.
We need clarity over responsibility within our rail network to ensure that services put the interests of passengers first, not the financial priorities of shareholders or the political priorities of Ministers. What assurances can the Minister give me that there will be real improvements to Yorkshire’s rail network, and on what timeframe? Beyond an optimism that operators will adopt more passenger-focused services, what sanctions will be imposed where that is not delivered? Also, where rail operators fail, as they have persistently over the last year, what moves will be taken to renationalise those services, and how low is the bar for that to be a real consideration?
Enough is enough. My constituents and I are sick of hearing warm words and platitudes from the Government. I say to the Minister, from one Yorkshire MP to another, I implore you to give commuters in the north proper consideration and to commit to an improvement of services that will see an end to their daily misery.
Just so colleagues know, I will call the two Front Benchers at 10.35 am and 10.45 am. That will give the hon. Lady who led the debate the opportunity to wind up. I will not put a time limit on speeches, but Members can see how many people want to speak, and I would like to give everybody the opportunity to do so. I call Kevin Hollinrake.
Thank you, Dame Cheryl; it is a pleasure to be called in the debate and to serve under your chairmanship. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) for securing this important debate. I have an awful lot of time for her, and a great deal of time for Dewsbury, having stood there as a candidate one year—not against my hon. Friend, who I am sure would have wiped the floor with me. I endorse many of her comments completely, particularly those regarding the impact on her constituents.
I was lucky enough to be chosen to lead a debate in September on exactly the same issues. I have to say that since that debate things have got worse, not better. I spoke about some of the commuting difficulties for my constituents, regarding not just the service itself, but the lack of communication around the services. Scheduled services running from York to Scarborough were stopping at Malton and unloading all passengers at that station, which has no toilets and no café. People did not know that they would be unloaded at Malton; they expected to go through to Scarborough.
It was completely disgraceful. The least people might have expected was for TransPennine to have told them at York that they would be unloaded at Malton. They could therefore have stayed at York until the arrival of a through train to Scarborough. It is simply unacceptable that, this summer, 56 trains were stopped at Malton in those circumstances; in the summer of 2017, only six trains were. That represents how bad the service has been.
TransPennine has made lots of promises about improvements. It has said that changing the driver rotas should improve things, and that some of the improvements in the north-west should have resulted in improvements to the service. However, that improvement in the service has simply 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 for TransPennine to say, “We’ve had these problems and things are getting better.” They are not getting better. The least we might have expected is for the communication to be getting better, and it does not seem to be.
I concur with my hon. Friend’s comments on increases in rail fares. Generally, it is right that fares increase, as long as some of the investment goes into our railways—it is clearly good that we are seeing the levels of investment that we are in our railways. However, where there is such terrible performance, it does not seem right that the people responsible for that performance also increase fares. I wonder what the Minister can say about that. Are there any sanctions available to him that he could impose on TransPennine to emphasise that it should not put fares up until the service has improved, as an incentive to improve the service? The political pressure is just not getting through. We are all talking about this, but the service is not improving.
I wrote to the regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, to ask for the inclusion of TransPennine in the inquiry into Northern and Govia Thameslink. I felt that the inquiry related to communications, and I do not know why it did not include TransPennine. At this point in time, when things have not improved and the service is clearly below par, it seems perfectly reasonable that the regulator should look into that in a more detailed way. Could the Minister apply pressure on the regulator to include TransPennine in the inquiry?
There is some good news; there is no question about that. Despite some of the comments about investment, we are seeing higher levels of investment. Part of the problem has been the investment in the north-west. The delays in the engineering works for that have had the knock-on effect of causing delays on the trains. We are looking forward to the doubling of the frequency of journeys from York through to Scarborough by the end of next year, which will be welcomed by many of my constituents, with longer trains, better trains and new trains. That is all very good, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury that we need a more strategic approach to investment right across the north.
My hon. Friend signed the letter that I sent to the Chancellor; in fact, 82 parliamentarians, including many who are here today, did so. It asked for a doubling of investment right across the north over the next 30 years. We are waiting for the Transport for the North report, and when we get that, the 82 parliamentarians who signed that letter need to work together collectively to lobby for a step change in investment over a long period of time. I think the figure of £100 billion is what we had in the letter. Some of that funding was for Northern Powerhouse Rail, which we all want to see—to bring forward that scheme so that it arrives at the same time as High Speed 2. I prefer to call that scheme Crossrail for the north, because that might move us up the pecking order.
On the comparison with investment in London, London is a great place, and I love being down here, but the level of investment is phenomenal. That leads to prosperity, because higher productivity leads to higher prosperity, and people in London are 50% more productive than people in the regions—not just the north, but right across the country. That is why average wages in London are 50% higher than in the rest of the country, and certainly than in the north. One thing leads to another. Investment leads to productivity, which is good for the UK economy and great for our constituents, because they become more prosperous as a result. We need a longer-term approach. It is a wonderful vision that we might see 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.
The hon. Gentleman and I are joint chairs of the all-party parliamentary group for Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire. Will he agree that many of us still believe that calling a halt to HS2 and investing that money in the sorts of trains our constituents travel on every day is better than this vanity project, which is going to cost £100 billion?
That is a very interesting point. I am sure, Dame Cheryl, that you have your own view on it, which you might wish to express. At the very least, I would like to see Northern Powerhouse Rail, High Speed 3 or Crossrail for the north—whatever we want to call out—delivered at the same time. That is far more important than the north-south journeys.
The critical thing for me is to connect the cities, which gives opportunities to rural areas as well, and the key issue is devolution. The money and the powers should be devolved up to the north, so we do not have to come to Whitehall to ask for the money or to discuss where it should be spent—we should get the money in a long-term settlement. Devolution is key. It is great to see one of the current Mayors here, the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis), who is trying to work through the Sheffield devolution deal, which is very welcome. I think that devolution to the cities across Yorkshire—rather than to the wider county—is far more workable, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman will make a great job of the devolution deal he has on his table.
I am absolutely determined, as many here today are, to make sure we get a step change in investment, and to solve the shorter-term problems that the hon. Member for Dewsbury pointed to in her very compelling speech.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), who spoke thoughtfully and forensically about the rail issues across Yorkshire, and my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff), who spoke with great passion and vigour. I will just make a few remarks very quickly.
There are two main lines throughout the Keighley constituency, the Airedale and Wharfedale lines, which were electrified in 1994. Many people built their lives—their journeys into work and their children’s journeys to school, and so on—around those lines. Traditionally, they have been high performing, which makes it even more frustrating for so many people that over the last year the performance levels have sunk abysmally low. I will not rehearse the statistics we have already heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury, but there is a frustration among Members of Parliament about what we can do to change the situation. We plead with Ministers. We plead with Northern and TransPennine. To be fair to the ordinary middle managers there, they try to get back to us, but they seem powerless to effect change.
Does my hon. Friend agree that in order to achieve improvements, we will work in a cross-party way with the Minister and with the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton, and that we will do anything in our capability to try to make things better for our constituents?
That was very well put, and I was going to make that point. I am genuinely pleased that we have the Minister and the shadow Minister in their places. There is now some Yorkshire influence on the issue and, I hope, some Yorkshire common sense.
In my frustration, I have been considering who we can write to, so I am writing today to Deutsche Bahn, which ultimately owns Northern rail. We are told that we cannot possibly have nationalisation, but we have a nationalised rail company in Northern rail—it just happens to be German. The whole reputation of Deutsche Bahn is under threat here. I hope that, in the new year, a very senior executive of Deutsche Bahn will come to this House and talk to hon. Members from Yorkshire.
If my hon. Friend needs any more support for his letter, I am sure everyone in this room would be very happy to add their names.
Let us make it a joint letter, sending Christmas wishes to Germany.
Without delaying the House too much longer, it would be remiss not to mention the strike, which is causing difficulties for the Yorkshire economy. There was some good news when it appeared that Transport for the North and, I think, the Government acknowledged that there would be a second person on all trains, but there seems to be an issue about the detail of what that second person would do. In Scotland, a deal was done where the guard would continue to have a safety-critical role—the driver would open the doors and the guard would close them. There are compromises that can be reached. Having beer and sandwiches at No. 10 is perhaps out of fashion, but we need Minsters to get the different parties together to end this strike and have proper negotiations.
Many of my constituents travel from Otley to my hon. Friend’s constituency to catch the train on the Wharfedale line, and they all find that the trains are overcrowded. Without the guard, they would really struggle to use that service, particularly as the bus and train times are not compatible with each other. They need that additional support when they reach train stations on the Wharfedale line.
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. His constituents are very welcome at Burley in Wharfedale, Menston, Ilkley and so on. I believe in the critical safety role of the guard.
I will move on to talk about Boxing day trains. One consequence of the disruption on Northern and TransPennine is that they are not fulfilling their promise—it was in the franchise—to run Boxing day trains. Northern and their franchise were meant to run 60 Boxing day trains this year, and TransPennine were meant to have proposals that would be funded by Government. There are no Boxing day trains in Yorkshire, but there are four lines in the south-east of England that will be running Boxing day trains. The following football teams have home games in Yorkshire: Leeds United, Sheffield United and Barnsley. Harrogate are playing against Halifax—a big local derby in the lower leagues—and I will be watching Guiseley play against Bradford Park Avenue.
There is demand for public transport and trains on Boxing day. Buses now run in Leeds, Bradford and some other Yorkshire cities, whereas they did not a decade ago. Some people cannot go home for Christmas from London to Yorkshire, because they have to be at work on 27 December and they cannot get a train back on Boxing day. There are also the issues of the environment and of loneliness—not everyone relishes being at home for 72 hours at a stretch, in some cases on their own. I appeal to the Minister: let us have Boxing day trains, as in the franchise, on Boxing day 2019. I think he can be the man to deliver that.
We have not yet heard much of London North Eastern Railway in this debate. I understand that it has promised to have seven direct trains to London, which were meant to start in May 2019—previous transport Ministers have assured us that they would. My understanding is that they will now start in the autumn of next year, and I wonder whether the Minister can confirm that today. Lots of businesses in Bradford are really looking forward to those direct trains to London.
Finally, I want to share a railway success story, which is about the role of heritage railways. They will be running across Yorkshire during the holiday period. My distinguished predecessor Bob Cryer was instrumental in saving the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, and my distinguished predecessor Ann Cryer is president of that railway. I have to report to Members that its “Santa special” on Christmas Eve is completely full—even the local MP cannot get a ticket. I am assured that if there are any cancellations, tickets will be available on Facebook.
Bob Cryer used to shovel coal on the train. Has my hon. Friend been doing that?
There are many ways in which I cannot live up to my distinguished predecessor Bob Cryer, and that is just one of them.
It is always a delight to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (John Grogan), and I particularly agree with his comments about Northern, which were very well made. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) on securing this timely debate. She set out very clearly the appalling statistics of what has been happening over the past six to nine months in Yorkshire and the suffering that passengers have had to endure.
I want to talk specifically about TransPennine and First Hull Trains. Both companies are part of FirstGroup, which made millions in profit in the last financial year. I will give some experiences of passengers. The first reads:
“Happy Bank Holiday weekend, TransPennine Express. I’m sure we’ll have a good one too when my husband eventually gets on your train service from Leeds to Hull. He’s still sat on the platform. It’s the fifth night in a row, and he has missed his son’s bedtime.”
I have also had constituents write to me to say that they are moving away from Hull because of the unreliability of the service when they want to commute to Leeds. On overcrowding, which has become an issue over the past year:
“If you want intimacy but you’re too scared to seek it out, take a TransPennine Express train instead, and press yourself against four strangers for two hours.”
TransPennine Express decided earlier this year as part of its timetabling changes that it would increase the length of the journey from Hull across to Manchester by adding four additional stops. When questioned about this by the Hull and Humber chamber of commerce, TransPennine apparently said that the
“timetable development will enhance connectivity to and from Hull.”
It actually adds about 15 additional minutes to the journey. There was no consultation or discussion—TransPennine just decided to do this themselves. This does not fit with the northern powerhouse—connectivity between the great cities of the north. It should be reducing journey times, not increasing them.
When we three Hull MPs asked to meet Leo Goodwin, the head of TransPennine Express who has a pay package of £360,000, he would not. In fact, when we had the meeting with the chamber of commerce, we empty-chaired him: we had a chair with his name on, because he would not come and talk to us. We shamed him into coming to explain to us why TransPennine had taken that action. It is clear that there are cancellations and there is late running, and people are being squashed in like sardines on the service from Leeds.
In Hull, we feel like we are the end of the line and often forgotten. We are not getting new trains; we are getting refurbished trains as part of the TransPennine refurbishment stock. The city of Hull does not have a direct train to Manchester airport, but Scarborough—a small and important town—does. We now have longer journeys across the Pennines due to the changes that TransPennine made, and we do not have a direct service from Hull to Liverpool—the area that we know is the spine of the northern powerhouse.
I would like the Minister to respond to our requests. We think that we should have a half-hourly additional express service from Hull and a direct link to Manchester airport. I also want to mention TransPennine Express, because it runs Hull station on behalf of Network Rail. We have been voted the ninth-worst station in the UK by Passenger Focus. We had £1.4 million spent to improve facilities that were supposed to be for city of culture in 2017, but which did not finish until 2018. We have smaller waiting rooms, smelly toilets and gaffer tape over the signage in the station. We have a Christmas tree that was put up and then surrounded with bollards and hazard tape. The lack of pride that TransPennine has in our station just beggars belief. We have had no station manager for months; we have had remote management from Huddersfield.
I have a similar problem at Dewsbury. We do not have any toilets in our stations, and TransPennine Express have suggested that my constituents and passengers using the station should use the pub nearby. For cultural and other reasons, many people are not comfortable going into the pub to use the bathrooms. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a disgrace that a very busy station should not have any toilet facilities in this day and age?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. There are real questions for the Department for Transport about whether TransPennine is meeting its franchise specification.
We were really proud in Hull to get the open-access operator Hull Trains in September 2000—we had to fight to do so. It has been a brilliant flagship open operator service since 2000, but it has really deteriorated in the past 12 months. It has only four trains, which are constantly being taken off to be repaired. They are class 180s—people who know about these things have told me that they are not fit for purpose for the route that they travel every day on the east coast main line. Customers are so frustrated at the cancellations and the services that stop at Peterborough or Doncaster. They do not feel that Hull Trains is giving them fair information in good time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), who unfortunately cannot be here this morning, has asked me to say that Hull Trains is due to get new trains at the end of 2019, which is very welcome. However, we think that First Group needs to put pressure on to get those trains to us sooner. The past 12 months have been disastrous for Hull Trains’ customer relations. We need those trains in Hull as soon as possible. The managing director told me that she might be able to get an additional train from somewhere else after Christmas. That is welcome, but Hull Trains really needs to sort itself out. I am pleased that the Minister, a Yorkshire MP, is in his place, and I hope we will start to see some real changes over the next few months in rail services in the north.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) on securing this important and timely debate. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson). Nobody here needs reminding how terrible a year this has been for rail passengers in Yorkshire and across the north. Since the introduction of the timetable changes in May, we have seen what the Transport Committee rightly called a
“period of intensely inconvenient, costly and, on occasions… potentially dangerous disruption.”
Northern Rail, which serves Bradford on the Leeds-Bradford, Airedale and Wharfedale lines, has provided especially poor service. Since the new timetable was introduced, an average of 2.5% of trains have been cancelled, and 4.6% have operated in our region with fewer carriages than planned. On a typical day, about 100 to 200 passengers are left behind at stations in Yorkshire. They are stranded and are late for work and critical appointments that they need to get to. Unfortunately, despite the criticism that the train operating companies and the Department for Transport have come under since May, we have still not had a significant improvement in service levels. In fact, The Yorkshire Post found that rail punctuality is even worse now than it was in the immediate aftermath of the timetabling change. In November, only 62% of TransPennine Express services and 67% of Northern services arrived on time. Eight months on from the initial problems, it is shocking that the industry appears not to have got a grip on this issue. Passengers in Bradford and across Yorkshire have experienced almost a year of delays, cancellations and disrupted service. Despite that, fares continue to rise above inflation. It is simply not good enough; we deserve better.
As the Office of Rail and Road reported, the responsibility for the fiasco must be shared between the train operating companies, Network Rail and the Department for Transport. Each failed to prepare for the changes, and there was a clear lack of leadership at all levels.
It is also worth looking at the longer term causes of the crisis. There has been a persistent and longstanding underfunding of transport infrastructure in the north. As well as addressing the immediate problems with the performance of train operating companies, the Government must commit to revising the way that rail investment decisions are made. As a start, they should commit to working with Transport for the North to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail as a priority. Bradford, like other towns and cities across the north, urgently needs that high-speed rail link to meet growing demand and fulfil our economic potential. It is only by investing in rail infrastructure, planning for future timetable changes and ensuring that passenger interests are at the heart of our rail system that we will prevent a repeat of the unacceptable service we have seen in recent months.
My hon. Friend referred to the work of the Transport Committee, which looked at timetabling and rail infrastructure investment. Does she share my concern that, according to the figures for the national infrastructure and construction pipeline, planned spending on transport per capita in Yorkshire is set to be the lowest of all the regions? It was not only lower in the past, but will be lower in the future—in 2017-18 and 2020-21?
I share my hon. Friend’s concern, and we all share her outrage.
It is really simple: deep into the 21st century, towns and cities in Yorkshire should be connected by a regular, good, safe service that everyone can depend on. How can it be that my constituents and I cannot get to Bradford easily from Huddersfield? Why has the line between Huddersfield and Wakefield been closed, with a tremendous impact on those cities? Will my hon. Friend join me in going on those trains and waving banners?
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. It is an immense frustration for me, as a Bradford MP, that we are not properly connected with the rest of the north. That causes problems and limits my constituents’ learning, development and job opportunities, which are crucial to a city like mine.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) for securing this important debate on a subject that concerns so many of our constituents and impacts negatively on the quality of their lives.
Here we are in Westminster Hall. The Chamber is prepared, the Chair is in her place and the Clerks are ready to give advice. The Westminster staff have ensured efficiently that everything is in readiness for our debate. We are on time and we have enough seats. Members and Ministers are prepared. It is the expectation that that will happen. When my constituents buy a ticket for a rail journey or a season ticket, which will be subject to another price hike of more than 3% in January, their expectation is that there will be a regular, accessible train service with enough carriages and available seats. Their expectation is that the trains will get them to their destination on time without stress or discomfort. Those are not unreasonable expectations. They expect that that will happen, just like this debate.
Sadly, the reality for my Colne Valley constituents travelling on the TransPennine route to either Leeds or Manchester is that they are packed like sardines on trains with not enough seats available. There are frequent cancellations and severe delays. For the privilege of all that, they pay among the highest fares in Europe.
Slaithwaite and Marsden are two of the worst-performing stations in the country. Recently at Slaithwaite, 4% of trains have run on time. In the same period, 6% of trains were cancelled. It is not right that there is a greater chance of a train being cancelled than running on time. There are frequently two or three-hour gaps in service. That is what commuters in my constituency face daily. They struggle to get to work on time, and some have been issued formal warnings. They spend less time with their families because they need to leave earlier, or they struggle to make childcare arrangements to accommodate unpredictable service changes. Many have told me that they are reluctantly starting to drive to work because the services are so unreliable. The human cost is significant, and I do not believe the Government fully comprehend it.
This is not just about individuals. Businesses in my constituency have felt the impact since the chaos began in the summer. Rail user groups estimate that usage at peak times is down by about 30% since the timetable change. People may be less likely to visit our picturesque villages and support our local businesses if they cannot guarantee that they will be able to get home after their visit.
I have been working with local rail groups—Slaithwaite and Marsden Action on Rail Transport and Stalybridge to Huddersfield Rail Users Group—along with my hon. Friends the Members for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) and for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), to campaign on these issues and advocate for a better service. I have met the Secretary of State three times. In our most recent meeting, he agreed to facilitate a discussion between rail user groups and senior rail officers about improving co-ordination between Network Rail and train operators. It was accepted that the poor accessibility at Marsden station is unsatisfactory and that, to address it, temporary ramps should be put in place as soon as possible. I will not hold my breath.
In the meantime, my constituents are returning to their cars, changing jobs or even moving away from our lovely Colne Valley villages. They want to be home in time to put their children to bed or pick them up from nursery. They want to get to work on time or catch their flight to go on holiday. Those are not unreasonable asks.
One way commuters in my constituency are using their additional time while they stand on cold platforms is by sharing their experiences with rail companies and me on social media. I would like to share some of the feedback I have received on Twitter. Jane said:
“This morning I forked out £2,572 for my annual season ticket to Manchester. Tonight I arrived into Huddersfield 21 minutes late and missed my hourly connection. It’s not good enough.”
“People need to wake up and see what impact the May timetable changes have had on our villages. All I want for Christmas is to be able to get to work on time. #unhappycommuter.”
“The timetable’s changed but I think they just blewit. They still can’t get trains t’stop at Slewit!"
We are coming up to Christmas. A present for my Colne Valley constituents would be on-time, regular and accessible trains, with enough seats and space for passengers, and affordable ticket prices. Instead of the 12 days of Christmas, we have the 12,000-plus delays of Christmas. Colne Valley people deserve better.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl, and to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Thelma Walker). I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) on securing this important debate. As a fellow Yorkshire MP, I share her concerns, as well as those highlighted by all hon. Friends present, about the unacceptable train services in our region. She spoke very well and highlighted that she knows only too well the problems with those services. We all receive huge amounts of correspondence from rightly dissatisfied constituents.
Time and time again, constituents share with me the unacceptable number of delayed or cancelled rail services. People in Barnsley are forced to endure—particularly at rush hour—the ancient, overcrowded and overpriced trains that they are packed into when one eventually arrives. Many are forced to spend a fortune on alternative travel arrangements on top of the already inflated rail season tickets for which they have paid nearly £2,000—the annual cost between Barnsley and Leeds, for example.
I will use this opportunity, as so many hon. Members have done, to share some of the stories that constituents have shared with me. One wrote to me about the toll that the substandard rail services are taking on their mental health, as delays consistently cause them to arrive home late and miss out on family life. Another voiced his worry that his son, who is working his first job at a shopping centre little more than half an hour away, is forced to leave hours early to make it on time, and still faces termination to his employment because he cannot manage to do so. That is, quite simply, completely and utterly unacceptable.
Those people are just trying to go about their daily lives, get to work on time and get home again. Instead, they are continually out of pocket, let down, and possibly even laid off because of the appalling mismanagement of our rail services. We saw the chaos caused by the timetable changes earlier this year, which so many hon. Friends have talked about. Since then, we have seen no progress. We have had more delays, more cancellations, and the same antiquated trains.
What is more, my constituents in Barnsley East are told that spending per head in Yorkshire and the Humber has actually fallen under the great northern powerhouse project, while it has doubled in London. Is it any wonder that nearly two thirds of the public back taking our rail services out of the hands of these dodgy profit-driven private companies and back into public control, to be run in the interests of the customers who depend on them?
Last, but certainly not least, I call Tracy Brabin.
Thank you Dame Cheryl; it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I thank my constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff), for securing this important debate. Our constituencies are both served by the trans-Pennine rail route and we face many of the same issues.
The local rail network is vital to many of my Batley and Spen constituents, and crucial for our long-term economic prosperity. Its importance has increased since 2010, as our bus services have been slashed due to a lack of Government investment. The town of Batley—home to the only active railway station in my constituency—lies between Leeds and Manchester on the trans-Pennine rail route, but as one constituent who commutes from Batley every day succinctly put it, the service “has descended into farce”. What should be a simple commute has turned into a recurring nightmare.
Every time I visit Batley station, commuters are eager to share their anger: anger at the packed train that does not stop and whizzes past; anger at the cancellation announced seconds before the train is due to arrive; and, for those lucky enough to cram themselves on to a carriage, anger that they are paying so much for the privilege. Now, almost eight months on from the timetable debacle, I discover that Batley station is ranked in the bottom 15 in the whole nation for performance. Over the last six months—bear in mind that Batley is a small station—459 services have been cancelled. Less than 10% of services overall have been on time.
Barely a week goes by when a constituent does not alert me to yet another failing. Just last week, I was contacted by several people who were furious that the direct TransPennine service from Batley to Manchester had been removed without their knowledge. They only made the discovery as they arrived at the station on Monday morning. They now have to change in Huddersfield, subject to further potential delays and cancellations.
Such chaos and uncertainty are damaging to my constituency. People have to make frantic phone calls to employers with the familiar message, “I’m going to be late, again.” Children wonder where their parents are as they struggle to get back in time to collect them. Some are considering uprooting their families from the communities they love out of exasperation. Those are not just stories, Minister; they are people’s lives.
After several meetings with Ministers on Transport for the North, Northern and TransPennine, it is clear to me that the issues go way beyond just reliability and performance. Shamefully, Batley station does not have permanent disabled access. Of the 16 stations in the district of Kirklees, only eight can accommodate disabled passengers. Those people are effectively barred from travelling independently, and miss out on the amazing culture and opportunities in nearby cities. The Equality Act 2010 requires that all station operators take reasonable steps to ensure that they do not discriminate against disabled people. Hopefully, the Minister will update us on the precise action that the Government are taking to ensure that operators meet this crucial legal requirement.
Underpinning all of this is the infrastructure, which is sadly lacking. Detailed plans for the long-promised electrification of the trans-Pennine route remain as elusive as ever. When I inquired earlier this year, the Secretary of State refused to tell me whether the whole route would be electrified. Perhaps the Minister can venture a response. Although I welcome the much-vaunted introduction of new rolling stock to our network—which, incidentally, has been delayed until next spring—given the existing infrastructure, I fear it will have little effect on reliability.
Batley station is only as welcoming as it is thanks to the attentions of a fantastic group of volunteers called the Friends of Batley Station. They have spent weekends planting flowers and creating a café, with the backing of local businesses, such as PPG and Batley Bulldogs. Volunteers, however, cannot give us a better service. We desperately need long-term strategic investment.
The latest analysis by IPPR North shows that transport spending has risen twice as much per person in London as in the north since the launch of the northern powerhouse. Last year alone, public spending on transport in London was three times higher than in Yorkshire and Humber. The so-called enhancement package of £15 million to be used across the north, which was announced by the Government last month, amounts to little more than a drop in the ocean. That is unacceptable and indicative of the chronic under-investment in the north.
Where do we go from here? Transport for the North’s strategic transport plan, which includes plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail, has some exciting and potentially transformative proposals, but I feel that more work needs to be done to ensure that towns feel the benefits, along with cities. That plan will of course need the Government’s backing to become reality. We were promised an interconnected northern powerhouse, yet it remains a challenge to get from one town to the next. Franchisees, such as TransPennine and Northern, have serious questions to answer, but the buck stops with the Government and, ultimately, with the Secretary of State for Transport.
The Minister will no doubt repeat the “record investment in transport” mantra, while failing to note that the lion’s share of investment has gone to projects in the south. Will the Minister tell me when exactly the people of Batley and Spen will see significant investment in the rail services on which they rely? My constituents are sick and tired of feeling like second-class citizens, and deserve clear answers on an issue that will have a deep and long-lasting impact on our community.
Thank you. We will now move on to the Front-Bench speeches. I call Rachael Maskell.
Thank you, Dame Cheryl; it is a pleasure to see you in the Chair—you have heard the sheer anger of our constituents about the state of our railways. Today’s debate could have been called, “Why we desperately need an alternative Government to run our railways.” We have a detailed worked-up plan that will address the real challenges that commuters face on a day-by-day basis.
My hon. Friends the Members for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin) and for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) highlighted that this is not just about personal stories, but about lives having to change because of a failure of timetables and the governance of our railways. We know the particular difficulties that people have had because of the halting of the electrification programme, which has had a catastrophic impact. The timetable fiasco resulted from that—
Will the hon. Lady give way?
I will just begin my speech, if I may.
There are excessive fare hikes, poor infrastructure, franchise changes and no certainty for the future. The Williams review critiques how dreadful the whole infrastructure is and how it is imploding around our constituents, who want only to turn up at work in time and to live out their lives. This is a disgrace.
Rather than calling for a change in Government, would our constituents not prefer us to work on a cross-party, constructive basis to try to solve the problems? Much of the debate has been very constructive. Would that not be a better way forward?
The reality is that the Government are not interested in the detailed solutions that we have been working towards for eight years to put the railway system back together, working across the industry with all stakeholders. That is why we need to move forward. If the Government want to join us in that, we would welcome that conversation, but to date they have blocked us. There is a real difference in policy. I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but also what my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) says. We need to look at the penalties that should be placed on these rail companies, such as freezing fares where there has been rail failure. It is wrong that people pay more for more failure on the railways.
The reality is that the Government have failed. Their ideology that is driving this forward is falling apart. Under the new model of publicly owned railways that we will put in place, we will see long-term security, long-term planning, long-term investment and stability for the whole rail sector.
We know about the inequality. We have heard the statistic about how London and the south-east have had so much more investment than we have in Yorkshire. There are consequences when we do not see the resources there. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) said, let us think about the vitality of connecting Sheffield to Leeds and Manchester—connecting the major cities of the north. In fact, the connectivity between Leeds and Manchester is the same length as the Piccadilly line. Think about the frequency and the reliability of the Piccadilly line compared with what we see at the moment.
We have heard tales of woe from across the trans-Pennine route. We have had a downgrade of the downgrade that was already planned—that came out of the board meeting a week or so ago. That downgrade will have serious consequences, because the Government have removed vital reliability from the service. Not only have we lost freight elements, as my hon. Friends have mentioned, and journey time savings—my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) highlighted how journey times will extend with more stops on the line—but we have lost the reliability factor. That means that the only marker that will have an upgrade is capacity, because there are larger trains. Even then, we will not reach the potential on that line.
Dirty diesel is being put on the route as opposed to full electrification—the only thing that will deliver the reliability that is required. We have heard that this is all part of a stepped process: in control period 6 we will see some of the upgrade, and it will be completed in CP7. Will the Minister tell us what certainty there is that in more than 10 years’ time—we must remember that timeline, because we need connectivity today—CP7 will bring about that full upgrade of the trans-Pennine route? That is the crucial route for the north and we need the upgrade now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North highlighted the appalling state of stations. We must remember that stations are places of service—they are where people wait and they need facilities. Public toilets are a basic public health necessity and they must be there to meet passenger needs. We need to make sure they are put in place. We also need to make sure that our stations are accessible. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen about the situation in Kirklees, where only eight of 16 stations are accessible. We have heard about Marsden station from my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Thelma Walker), and about Mirfield station. I was with Leonard Cheshire just last week at York station—even there, there was only one information point in the whole station. If a passenger is in need, where do they go? It is unacceptable.
We heard about the Equality Act 2010, but we must remember that it has been 23 years since the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which called on stations to make reasonable adjustments. Quite clearly, that is shameful. We are nearly a quarter of a century on and we still deny disabled people the right to access railways. It is not just physical adaptations that are needed; we need to change the environments to accommodate neuro diversity. I suggest that the Minister talks to the TSSA, which is a leader in this field, about how we can accommodate autism and other such things, and make sure that our stations are supportive of people with sensory impairments.
Let me give the Minister a gentle reminder: guards are on trains not just to close doors, which is vital for passenger safety, but as the passenger champion to make sure passengers are safe—whether disabled or non-disabled—throughout their whole journey. It is vital that the Government get to grips with this agenda and ensure that passengers are looked after, as it is a public service, and that guards are back on our trains. It is an easy dispute to resolve, yet the Government seem so entrenched in their ideology that they do not want to move forward on this issue.
Our new model of public ownership will have the passenger at its heart. We will make sure that we take decisions in an integrated way, closer to where the passengers are, that power and resource are in the right place, and that we plan for the long term. We have a 30-year lifetime of infrastructure and rolling stock to make proper investments, to make sure there is a smoothing of skills, and to ensure good employability across the industry. Whether with operations, maintenance or enhancements, we will make sure that we timetable in such a way as to sustain our railway, so it does not fail passengers.
We want real investment in new technologies. It is heartbreaking that we go back to old technologies on our railway systems, because we see such advances taking place elsewhere in Europe and in the world. Yet in the UK, we are still stuck on Victorian railways. We have to move that agenda forward, because that will deliver the reliability that our passengers need and demand from this Government.
We have great opportunities ahead of us; we have heard Northern Powerhouse Rail mentioned. That will get the vital connectivity into Bradford if we have anything to do with it. We will make sure that the north is properly connected and has that modal shift where people move from road to rail—not just passengers, but freight. We have a real crisis with our environmental and carbon footprint. We have to see a modal shift. That will bring about the connectivity that hon. Friends talked about with bus services, making sure the whole system works together. We have the National College for High Speed Rail in Doncaster. I urge employers to make the best use of that academy as we move forward.
Finally, I want to talk about the franchising system. There is recognition that the whole system is broken. The train operating companies are self-serving; they have not provided the essential public service that, perhaps, was envisaged in the beginning; and they are certainly now orientated on profit. Rather than go through the franchising process, the Government have created 12 direct awards, and we clearly need to move on. We need real integration and Labour’s policies will be a catalyst to providing that essential connectivity for the sake of our economy and our environment, and to ensuring that people’s lives are restored and put back in order.
It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl. I thank everybody who has contributed to this passionate debate, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) on securing it.
We all agree on the importance of our region and the critical role that rail plays in helping it reach its full potential. I have listened to representations about rail services on the network in my home county, and I wish to set out a few thoughts about what went wrong, how the Government responded, and our plans for the future. We have heard powerful speeches about how the problems experienced across rail in the north last summer impacted on people’s lives—whether that was people getting home or having access to work, healthcare and so on—and I entirely recognise and agree with that. There is a personal dimension to this, as well as a bigger economic one.
If that is the case, and if the Minister recognises the impact that the chaos had on people’s lives, why is he allowing the fare increase from January?
I will come on to talk about fares and plans for the future, but let me focus on some of the points raised today. A number of colleagues raised a point about disabled access. As we know, our rail transport infrastructure is primarily Victorian. Successive Governments have run an Access for All investment programme, and that has continued, including a £300 million extension in the next control period. We published our inclusive transport strategy last July, which for the first time included work on hidden disabilities. As colleagues may remember, I was in the Department for Transport a couple of years ago, and we had our first ever conference on mental health and transport. That was a significant moment—I was pleased that we went calling as it attracted so much attention. Work on making our transport system more accessible and easier to use for people with disabilities, including hidden disabilities, is central, and I am sure no hon. Member here would disagree with that.
One underlying point has been that the quality of rail performance in the north has been unacceptable. That is correct; it is clearly the case. Following the May timetable change we had a very difficult summer on our railways, but lessons have been learned, especially in regard to future timetable changes, which we have already started to implement. A timetable change on 9 December landed significantly better than the changes in May, and I will expand on that shortly.
The problems in May had a number of causes, including the impact of engineering works. Long delays to the two electrification schemes in the north-west impacted on Northern, which had planned for those schemes to be completed, but they were not. It then had to completely re-plan its timetable in less than half the normal time, together with associated staff training and changes. However, we have made some headway on that. A change on the scale of that in May was, quite frankly, coupled with insufficient time for planning, which of course impacted on passengers. It was a complete failure right across the industry. That is why we set up a full inquiry into those timetable changes, chaired by the independent regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, under Professor Stephen Glaister. He has published interim reports, with a final report published just a few days ago, and the Department are reviewing its recommendations. As I said earlier, lessons from that incident must be learned, and the impact on passengers must be placed at the centre of every planning decision.
In a former life I was a headteacher, and I used to work out the timetable in the summer term to set out where the children would be and with which teacher. I never had classes with no teacher in September because I thought strategically. Who is responsible for the chaos that happened under this timetable? As a former headteacher I would have taken responsibility if I ended up with two classes and no teacher, or just one teacher. Who is responsible?
As the hon. Lady knows, we have a system in which individual rail companies and the regulator have collective responsibility for these things, and that is what failed.
Will the Minister give way?
I have given way a lot, and I have a lot to get through if I am to get to the answers. I will make a bit more progress before I take more interventions.
The May timetable change was a significant problem caused by ambition not being followed through with sufficient time to implement it properly—that obviously did not happen in the school of the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Thelma Walker). In September we 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. He 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 term.
Mr George is an independent expert, and he will act on behalf of railway customers to assist organisations in delivering organisational improvements. He will have a facilitation role in helping industry to reach the right decisions and focus on improving passenger services. He has already helped to highlight particular problem areas, and he will provide his conclusions in the new year. In the meantime, Network Rail has established a programme management office, so as to prepare better and to improve management of future timetable changes. An early recommendation from Network Rail was that it would be prudent for most of the changes planned for December 2018—including those in the north—to be deferred until May 2019. As colleagues have noted, we accepted that recommendation.
The modest changes that took place on 9 December were designed to improve performance, especially that of TransPennine Express through Yorkshire. I am pleased to report that the results in the first week—I recognise that these are early days—were encouraging, with TPE’s punctuality for the first few days 15% higher than the equivalent period in the previous week.
Several Members mentioned the compensation offered for the problems in May, and we took early action to ensure that passengers were compensated for the disruption they experienced. Not everybody was disrupted, but there was disruption in many parts of the country, not just the north, and those who were delayed significantly were able to reclaim money under the delay repay scheme. We required Northern and TPE to establish compensation schemes targeted at the people affected. That meant that the compensation was more generous, and money was put back into passengers’ pockets more quickly. More than 14,000 claims from season ticket holders and regular travellers on Northern and TPE services have been submitted, and £1 million has been paid in compensation to date. This week the delay repay scheme was extended to cover delays of 15 minutes. That focuses on helping people to seek redress if something goes wrong, but our focus now is on improving reliability and the operational performance of the railways, so that we do not need such compensation schemes.
Industrial relations were raised, and that issue is having a significant impact on the economy right across the north of England, not just in Yorkshire. In an effort to break the deadlock, leaders from Transport for the North and I recently made clear a shared desire to have a second person on board Northern trains, not just on the platform. As I have said, if we need to change the franchise contract, I will not block that in any way. Indeed, we will go further and play our part in helping to develop a funding package to cover any financial implications from such a change. In looking at the dispute, I see that Northern and the Department for Transport have confirmed that individual jobs are secure and pay is secure right up to the end of the franchise. There can be change with respect to having people on trains. All those changes are what people who travel on the networks are looking for. In view of that, I call on the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers to suspend the strikes and get talking again. I want the company and the union to sit and talk, and to bring things to a conclusion.
The Williams review is a significant piece of work. It is a root and branch review of the rail industry, led by the independent Keith Williams. We are seeking ambitious recommendations for reform that will ensure that the rail network delivers greater benefits for passengers. The investment from the Government and the private sector must result in improvements for passengers, to provide better capacity, better trains and more frequent services.
I am really looking forward to reading the Williams review. Will it cover disabled access from stations?
Passengers are at the heart of it. The point is for customers to be at the heart of the rail network, which of course includes such access, but I do not think that there will be any debate in that area. We all want there to be improved access. The points that the hon. Lady made about stations in her constituency are true—and they are, I am afraid, true for many of us. That is why Governments of different colours over successive generations have continued to invest in disabled access, and will continue to do so.
The Williams review is important in making sure the rail network is fit for the future. We have had huge success within the rail industry in the past 20 years, with the number of passengers more than doubling. Each year 1 billion extra passenger journeys are taken. However, we must ask ourselves whether the network is structured for the future, to allow for growth.
Will the Minister give way?
Yes—although I am going to run out of time.
On the question of future growth, will the Minister agree to a meeting in January with one or two Members who are interested in Boxing day trains for 2019?
I am always available for colleagues and am happy to arrange meetings. I know that engineering work is going on around the Christmas period this year, and I shall be going to see it. That is affecting the possibility of running Boxing day trains this year; but let us look to the future. I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman.
We shall shortly run out of time for debate, and I want to spend a moment looking ahead. I gently remind colleagues who talk about a lack of investment in the north that although I have some sympathy as to investment, a little caution is required in taking snapshots of figures. The figures for London reflect Crossrail, but analysis of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority figures for planned central Government spending on transport infrastructure in the four-year period we are now in—from 2017 to 2020—shows that the northern regions will have a higher spend than the southern ones.
Will the Minister give way?
I am going to run out of time in a minute.
On that point, please.
My goodness—go on then.
I thank the Minister for giving way. The point is important, because he talks about the northern regions, but this debate is about Yorkshire. As I said earlier, Yorkshire and Humber is set to receive the lowest level of spending of any region, according to his figures, at £726 per head compared with £1,026 in London and £1,139 in the south-east. It is much less than the spending in the north-west and west midlands, which will alter the figures. Yorkshire and Humber is losing out.
That was a repetition of the point that the hon. Lady made earlier, so I do not need to address it.
I gently remind hon. Members that we had a zero-growth franchise, which was put in place by the Labour party, and we are playing catch-up on under-investment. Labour Members may say that Labour invested steadily when it was in government, but the evidence is the exact opposite. We had a zero-growth franchise and are catching up from it. Let me consider what that catch-up might look like.
Although 2018 is clearly a year that passengers in the north would wish to forget, we should not overlook the fact that train services in the region will be changing fundamentally. A significant amount of investment will bring passenger benefits. On the infrastructure side, the electrification between Manchester and Preston, which I mentioned earlier, was finally energised last week and the first test trains are now operational. [Interruption.] It will benefit services across the north. That is my point. Electric passenger services will be phased in during the spring. Across the region platform lengthening is under way. Of course I recognise that performance is not good enough, and that is why we have made a change in the control period 6 budgets and priorities. Under CP6 there will be a budget of £48 billion. That covers the period from 2019 to 2024. The priority was moving away from enhancements to catching up on core reliability—the maintenance of the network.
Will the Minister address the issue of the trans-Pennine route and the fact that reliability has now been taken off the table as part of the CP6 upgrade? It is vital that it should be put back on the table, to ensure that we get the connectivity that we need between Manchester and Leeds.
If I get time I shall come on to the trans-Pennine upgrades, but the core purpose of the CP6 investment, which is a record from any Government in British history, is to increase reliability and punctuality.
The key thing that passengers will notice is new trains. New rolling stock will come in on Northern, TransPennine Express and London North Eastern Railway networks in the coming months, including the removal of Pacers by the end of 2019. By this time next year the vast majority of the 500 brand new carriages committed by Northern and TPE will have been delivered, and the remainder will have been completely refurbished. TPE will have introduced its new Nova trains on the north trans-Pennine route and all the Pacers will be gone from Northern. There will be more services to add to those already delivered, especially at weekends; there will also be later last trains in the evenings and earlier first trains on Sundays. Elsewhere, LNER will begin introducing its new Azuma trains next year.
The trans-Pennine upgrade is a huge Government initiative—a £2.9 billion upgrade covering York to Leeds and Manchester. It is one third of the expected rail upgrade investment in the next control period, so it is a significant point. By the way, freight has been mentioned, and it is of course still under our consideration for northern trans-Pennine.
Will the Minister give way?
No, because I am running out of time. I have 50 seconds left.
We have a trans-Pennine upgrade that is bigger than anything ever considered or delivered by Labour. We are delivering it for the north in a way that has never been considered before.
Northern Powerhouse Rail, which some have called Crossrail for the north, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The scheme is being developed for the north by the north—by Transport for the North—and the Government have given a budget to help it to do that. Crossrail in London was mentioned as if money were piling into it. The money that has gone into Crossrail was, of course, a loan. Transport for London needed that loan to help it deliver the project. It was not a grant.
Of course, it is fair to say that rail services across Yorkshire and the north as a whole have not been good enough. That is entirely understood, but I want to leave colleagues in no doubt that we recognise 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.
I am incredibly disappointed by the Minister’s response. He did not respond to a number of points. Once again it seems that sorry is the hardest word. He can be in no doubt—he must have heard loud and clear—that things need to improve and must improve. [Interruption.] He is chuntering from a sedentary position. I am not sure what he said, but I sincerely hope that we shall not be here again in six months reporting on a lack of progress, or further deterioration. Yorkshire towns and cities will no longer tolerate being second best, and I hope that he has heard that.
I am grateful to all the hon. Members who took part today, including the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake). I am sorry to single him out, but there are 17 Tory MPs in Yorkshire. Where are they? One has turned up today—and the hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak) has turned up in the past minute. It is not good enough. Does that mean that rail services in the rest of Yorkshire, represented by Conservative MPs, are fantastic? [Interruption.] Well, not all of them—where are the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), and the hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns)? The Minister has heard the stories of human suffering and misery, social mobility, mental health and life chances. My constituents and others in Yorkshire deserve better.
Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).