Opinion: Train cancellation figures not a sign of progress

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Making a point: Tim Farron
Making a point: Tim Farron
13 September 2017 5:44PM

AS I am sure you know better than me a lot of people around here really rely on the Furness line to get around, whether it is to travel to work or to school and even to get away on holiday.

That is why it was so frustrating to learn the other day that, on average, almost one train a day on the line was cancelled between May and August this year.

That is 110 trains in total - 110 times when people have turned up at stations along the line expecting to catch their train, only to find that they have to wait for another train or find another way of getting where they want to go. It’s not as if trains on that line are that frequent, you can easily expect to wait at least an hour for the next train, sometimes longer. Waiting at some of the stops along the line when the weather isn’t that nice can be pretty miserable.

And when the trains actually turn up, they aren’t exactly a joy to get on. I know that there are lots of complaints about train delays and overcrowding on commuter lines down south but they don’t have to deal with the 30-year-old Sprinter trains that often turn up on the Furness line. If they did, I am sure we would hear the outcry from here and, more to the point, I am sure that the government would be on the case in a shot.

That’s the problem. I just don’t think that this government cares about anything going on north of Watford, let alone north of Manchester. A sum of 110 train cancellations over the four summer months is four times the level we saw two years ago, that is not a sign of progress.

What makes it worse is that this news comes just after we learned that the government has cancelled its plans to electrify the Lakes line and that after the preparatory work had begun.

We even saw the transport minister writing in an article the other day that the success of northern transport depends upon “the North itself”. We certainly don’t read articles by him saying that London needs to sort out the issues of its transport “itself”. Crossrail 2, which will run from North to South London at a cost of about £30bn, is going full steam ahead. Only about half of that money is actually coming from London itself.

I know that there are plans to bring new trains onto the line but that’s it, they are just “plans”. As we have seen from the Lakes line cancellation, planning to do something is very different to actually seeing some progress.

As soon as parliament is properly back in action, I am going to take this up with Chris Grayling, the transport minister, and get him to make some firm commitments to ensure that our transport system gets as much support as he is giving to people down south.

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