Wakefield Council calls for Transport Secretary to resign over rail chaos

4 June 2018......... Commuters at Wakefield Westgate railway station this morning as Northern Rail introduce a new timetable. Picture Scott Merrylees
4 June 2018......... Commuters at Wakefield Westgate railway station this morning as Northern Rail introduce a new timetable. Picture Scott Merrylees

Wakefield Council will add its voice to the growing chorus of calls for the Transport Secretary to resign over the chaos on the north’s railways.

A motion to demand Chris Grayling stand down will be debated at a meeting of full council next Wednesday.

Northern passengers have now faced almost a month of severe delays and cancellations after a new train timetable was introduced at relatively short notice.

Mr Grayling has faced severe criticism for his handling of the fallout, though he has blamed Network Rail for the “collective failing” of passengers.

Wakefield Council’s portfolio holder for transport has drafted the motion, which brands the problems a fiasco and calls for Mr Grayling to resign with “immediate effect”.

Councillor Matthew Morley said: “I don’t understand why the new timetable was introduced, when Northern knew they wouldn’t be able to deliver it.

“The whole thing has been an absolute calamity. Beyond what’s happened in the last few weeks, going further back, passengers have had a horrendous service for some time now.

“The number of train journeys are increasing but at some stations people can’t get on the train.

“We’ve had years and years of underinvestment in the north and it’s time the railways were nationalised.

“Chris Grayling needs to really to take responsibility for what’s happened. I think resigning would send a message that what’s happened has been completely unacceptable.”

Passenger woes this year have not been helped by a series of strikes by Northern staff over plans to remove guards from trains.

That row shows few signs of cooling, with a further three days of industrial action taking place next week on June 19, 21 and 23.

Coun Morley said his experience on services in the district meant he sympathised with the unions.

He said: “I was on a train going to Castleford the other week and there was almost a riot which started to break out on a train. People had started fighting.

“It was quite frightening and if the guards hadn’t been there to break it up I don’t know what would have happened.

“So I’m very sceptical about driverless trains.”

David Hogg, who represents passengers in Pontefract on a transport committee, said problems in the town had been made worse by the use of one carriage trains at rush hour.

Although critical of Mr Grayling and Northern, he said that if the Transport Secretary was to resign it would make little difference to train users.

He said: “It wouldn’t solve anything, because the whole thing is done now, and it needs sorting out.

“As Transport Secretary he can’t run the whole railway by himself. All he can do is allocate the franchises to people who can run it, though obviously that’s proved to have not been the case.

“But there needs to be an investigation because this can’t be allowed to happen again. The whole thing has affected people’s confidence in the network, and that will remain long after this is over.”