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Rail chaos “part of North/South divide”, says leader

Passengers boarding a train at Batley Train Station.
Passengers boarding a train at Batley Train Station.

The North is “the poor relation” when it comes to an effective rail network.

That was the comment thrown out to rail operators by the new Labour leader of Kirklees Council’s Clr Shabir Pandor as fellow senior politicians pledged to support commuters looking for compensation.

A meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) heard that widespread train timetable changes were “a disaster waiting to happen” and that leaders of the region’s local authorities had to be seen to be “vociferously arguing the case” for residents and commuters.

Clr Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, damned the litany of late services and cancellations as “a massive omni shambles”.

And he expressed regret that WYCA was not a co-signatory to the franchise as it had skilled staff who might have indicated that the timetable changes would not work.

“We should be the voice of the people experiencing this shambles,” he said. “Some of the officers were telling me that they could predict this coming some weeks ago.

“Northern Rail are due to come off that emergency timetable and we hope to have assurances for what that means for passengers.”

He added: “Someone has to take some responsibility for this. That’s why we need to be lobbying government. Chris Grayling has tried to blame everybody but himself.”

Referring to what he called “a botched-up timetable” Clr Pandor added: “It is bigger than that.

“This shows under-investment in the North – a quite clear un-allocation of resources. If this happened down south they would have sorted it out very quickly.

“It shows that we are the poor relation. There is a disparity of funding between what is up here and what is down south. That is the bigger issue.”

Wakefield leader Clr Peter Box said it was imperative that the WYCA led the way in informing passengers about the prospect of compensation.

“This was a disaster waiting to happen. The whole system is close to a shambles.

“People rely on public transport to get to work. They are being put out. Life is difficult enough for people. When this happens it’s devastating. We have got to be seen to be on their side.”