Northern mayors to meet Transport Secretary Mark Harper over rail ‘chaos’

Northern mayors will meet Transport Secretary Mark Harper to demand he takes action to end the “chaos” on the region’s railways.

Labour mayors from West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Manchester, Liverpool and North Tyneside will urge the Cabinet minister to improve services on Wednesday.

Thousands of trains have been cancelled across northern England at short notice in recent weeks, with TransPennine Express, Avanti West Coast and Northern all affected.

Speaking ahead of the meeting in Manchester, West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin said: “Enough is enough. The Transport Secretary has promised to get a grip on this crisis and we welcome that.

“But the people of the North need more than warm words. We need a concrete plan that will get our rail network back on track.

“This chaos is having a devastating impact on the northern economy and our attempts to rebuild from the pandemic, while we try and support our communities against the cost-of-living crisis with record levels of inflation.

“The Secretary of State is the person who can step in and has a fresh opportunity to help solve the problem and that’s exactly what we’ll be telling him today.”

The meeting will also be attended by the mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram, mayor of the North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll, and the mayor of South Yorkshire Oliver Coppard.

Much of the disruption is being caused by rail workers no longer volunteering to do shifts on their rest days, amid an industrial relations crisis across the sector.

The mayors will call on Mr Harper to do whatever he can to encourage the train companies and trade unions to reach an agreement on rest day working.

They also want TransPennine Express to be put on a “six-month probation” to raise its performance before its contract is up for renewal in May 2023.