Politicians, local authorities, passenger groups and businesses are increasingly clear that the north of England’s rail network is not fit for purpose. With the Chancellor of the Exchequer the latest to acknowledge that big investment is needed to stop outdated trains, crumbling stations and slow, infrequent rail services disadvantaging communities and holding back the region’s economy, we have launched our Right Track North Charter.
Our new Right Track North campaign has today published a Charter setting out what Government must do to put things right. Some of the essential areas for investment are:
- New trains to tackle overcrowding and a programme to replace decrepit 30-year old diesel Pacers trains along with upgrades to other ageing rolling stock
- Basic facilities like covered waiting areas, real time information and help points at all stations
- Flexible season tickets so part-time workers can use the train to get to work
- Better connections through electrification, links to HS2 and line re-openings to improve journey times and reliability
- A “Northern Hub 2” around West Yorkshire to the needs of passengers and of rail freight, which is important for the region’s economy.
- Smart ticketing like London’s Oyster Card to be rolled out across the network
- Integrate rail with other transport options so buses, trams, cycles and rail can offer door to door journeys
Many of these objectives can only be delivered through collaboration between the railways, the Government and local authorities. The Rail North grouping of local authorities must be allowed to take a bigger role in managing services. The experience of Merseytravel shows how well local management can work.
A growing and improving rail network is vital for the future of the north, and for rebalancing the economy of the country as a whole. The Charter is about giving the North rail services that will meet future as well as current needs, connecting people with jobs and services, giving people choice in how they travel, reducing road congestion and encouraging inward investment. This is not just about the next franchises. We ask that the Government commit to working with authorities, businesses and communities in the north on a long term programme of investment to give the north the railways it needs and deserves.
The Charter has wide support. Twenty groups representing businesses, passenger organisations, environment groups and trade unions have joined our call for Government to use new franchises for Northern Rail and Trans-Pennine Express to invest in the trains, tracks and stations across the north. As part of the Right Track North campaign, we have written to the Secretary of State for Transport giving details of the charter objectives.