To consider a draft proposition for the future of rail in the North.
Lead: David Hoggarth
7.1 Members received the report from the Strategic Rail Director who highlighted the points in the report.
7.2 Regarding recommendation 4 in the report (“Stress the importance of the Government maintaining progress with major projects already in the pipeline”) Mayor Driscoll requested that the East Coast Mainline be included given a number of critical projects. He also requested that in relation to recommendation 5 (“Stress the importance of the Government progressing at pace with bringing forward the plans for a new station in Bradford and publication of the Terms of Reference on the Leeds Sheffield study”) that the Leamside Line is included as an additional project given its strategic importance.
Mayor Driscoll then highlighted the letter that the Mayors of the North had received following their recent meeting with the Secretary of State. Whilst the letter stated his (the Secretary of State’s) interest in pursuing a rail academy for the North, it made no mention or recognition of the strength of the recovery in patronage in the North and the adverse effects that service cuts would have if operators are asked to absorb the inflationary costs i.e. real term cuts in operating budget). Mayor Driscoll stressed that there will not be a future for rail in the North without investment in critical infrastructure and services.
He then informed Board that for many there is no viable alternative to heavy rail and highlighted the need for guards to remain on the trains in order for them to be safe for all to access.
7.3 Mayor Brabin was supportive of the recommendations in the report though she thought they could have gone further following the meeting with the Minister and subsequent letter. She highlighted TPE as being particularly problematic with the new December timetable leading to even more cancellations. She informed Board that the Mayors of the North had asked the Secretary of State to put TPE on notice; however, in the reply from the Secretary of State this issue was not addressed so she requested TfN’s support on this matter. She explained that this is necessary as there is no plan for recovery and requested some identifiable markers of improvement. She also raised concerns around the “P-coding” and in particular whether this is included within the data.
On the issues of the new TPE timetable she stated that it is not reflective of the needs of the communities Members serve and raised concerns about overcrowding and potential health and safety issues with the number of people on a train. She requested that TfN raise these concerns with the Secretary of State.
In response the Chair confirmed that he and the Chief Executive had recently met with the Secretary of State and is hopeful that following this meeting a Minister will be in attendance at the next Board meeting.
7.4 Mayor Burnham suggested turning the most prominent suggestions within the report into a five-point plan suggesting practical things that can be done on the railway in 2023 in order to try and restore confidence in train use for the travelling public.
Addressing other issues in the report he requested that the issue of guards on trains should be separated from the current dispute noting that the latter issue has an impact on the public’s trust. Additionally, he stated that accountability needs to improve and was critical of pre-cancelled trains, stating that this is being overused by TPE to avoid accountability.
He suggested the TfN should be calling on the Government to expedite the legislation on Great Br]itish Rail stating his belief that the bringing together of track and train will improve the system.
7.5 Mayor Coppard highlighted the fact that following the most recent timetable changes there had been 105 cancellations from TPE on the first day. He requested that the Sheffield to Leeds link be firmly established in the plan as well as calling for the Terms of Reference for the Leeds Study to be published urgently. He also raised the issue of the cuts and companies being asked to absorb the inflationary pressures leading to cuts in services.
7.6 Mr. Rob Mcintosh supported Mayor Burnham’s suggestion of a document highlighting key priorities noting that TfN shouldn’t get lost in a long “wish list". He suggested that there should be a focus on ticketing reform agenda around fares and ticketing, having more influence and control on the specification of services, the need to balance local versus strategic objectives and an emphasis on the need for reforming working practices to increase productivity.
7.7 Mr Peter Kennan highlighted that other rail operators operating in the North, aside from the main ones, are missing from the report (for example Cross Country) and stated the importance of such services in levelling up. He then raised the issue of further cuts that have been made as a result of the December timetable changes and asked if TfN could look at the nature of these cuts.
7.8 In reference to the final recommendation in the report (to write to the Rail Minister emphasising the importance of taking into account the impact on revenues, unmet demand and wider economic and social impacts when setting the budgets for Northern and TPE) Mr. Mark Rawstron suggested that the economic impact should be at the top of all communications.
7.9 Ms. Fiona White addressed the issue of “P Coding”, explaining that the data is collected for contractual purposes and is reported to the DfT and TfN partners meaning the data isn’t lost.
7.10 The Strategic Rail Director stated that the points made by Members will be incorporated into an document along the lines they suggested. On the issue of “P-Coding” a protocol is being worked on and this will be shared with the Rail North Committee. On the issue of Cross-Country he stated that he will look further into the Cross Country issue.
He explained that in the proposed document he will look to ensure that it explains how the market in the North has changed from pre-Covid yet has huge potential and that services need to be adjusted in order to take full advantage of this.
7.11 The Chief Executive stated that the letter will be sent to the Rail Minister as soon as possible.
1) That the importance of train operators being held accountable against service recovery plans is stressed;
2) That Board support the development of a Rail Academy for the North which will ensure there is a pipeline of trained drivers and operational staff;
3) That the critical importance of delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail ‘in full’ in order to realise the economic potential of the North is restated;
4) That the importance of the Government maintaining progress with major projects already in the pipeline, including:
• Delivery of measures identified by the Manchester Recovery Task
• Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU)
• HS2 Western Leg
5) That the importance of the Government progressing at pace with the need to:
· Bring forward plans for a new station serving Bradford, one which makes passive provision for NPR ‘in full’
· Publish the Terms of Reference for Leeds – Sheffield study identified in the Integrated Rail Plan
· Push forward with implementation of the Leamside Line
6) That Board agrees to prepare and publish the case for using the existing rail devolution in the North as the basis for rail reform;
7) That Board agrees to write to the Rail Minister emphasising the importance of taking into account the impact on revenues, unmet demand and wider economic and social impacts when setting the budgets for Northern and TPE.