Last modified: 05 March 2015
The Department for Transport are consulting on the next Northern Rail and Transpennine Express franchises. Despite talk of decentralisation, and promises we could run the process ourselves, the franchising process will be run from London. I responded to their consultation by emailing NorthernTPEconsultation2014@dft.gsi.gov.uk. If you need some inspiration for your own submission, here's what I sent them on 09/07/2014.
I have just spoken to your consultation team at Leeds station. I asked which Northern Rail or TPE services they used most frequently. They admitted that they used almost none. These people will consider who best to run services that they have almost no experience of.
Last time you let out these franchises you catastrophically underestimated the increase in demand on the railways and thus severely constrained economic growth in the North of England. You failed to challenge Strategic Rail Authority restrictions on important routes and there remain to this day no true direct services between Glasgow and Yorkshire (via Carlisle) and Glasgow and Liverpool. There is little prospect of them being allowed to resume.
You also failed to appreciate how poor the rolling stock on Northern Rail is, how few of the closed stations in densely populated parts of huge Northern cities have been re-opened, how poor the facilities for purchasing tickets are, how poor the integration with other forms of public transport remains, and how infrequently services run outside of peak times. I could send details of each of these problems down to you in London to consider, but it won't work!
Your consultation will not uncover the true problems and possibilities of rail in the North of England; and the potential franchisees know them far better than you already. You are at a great disadvantage in this process and your team based in London and "talking with" people in the North, will make the same mistakes this time as you made last. It will be well into the next decade before we have another chance to fix them.
In the last month George Osborne has spoken in Manchester about creating a Northern Powerhouse. Ed Milliband has spoken in Leeds about sweeping devolution. Nick Clegg has led in calling for a better distribution of transport subsidy away from London. There is no doubt that far greater powers are coming to the North of England. We desperately want to succeed, to grow, and to stop requiring a transfer of money from London to survive. And yet we will not have the power to control our railways until well after 2020. This is insane!
I beg you and I urge you; please reconsider your arrangement for letting out these franchises.
Transport for London's leadership with Overground has transformed local travel on those lines. Only local leadership, in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, York, Newcastle, and elsewhere across the North can do the same here. It was a desperate mistake not to give the North the power of its railways that the DfT had promised. Please think again.
Last weekend Yorkshire hosted the most successful ever start of the world's largest annual sporting event. We will get this right if you let us.