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I will make progress, as I have taken several interventions and I know that many speakers wish to contribute. It is not acceptable to allow companies to continue to run and profit from rail services following failures on this scale. Services should return to public ownership to be run as part of an integrated railway under public ownership.
I turn to the distressing situation that confronts us more broadly on the railway as a result of the calamitous introduction of new timetables across more than half the UK rail network. The changes were intended to be improvements to introduce much-needed rail capacity following public expenditure on new rail infrastructure, but instead of improvements passengers on Northern and GTR have experienced a nightmare of disruption, and there seems to be little prospect of their trials and tribulations ending quickly. Last week, the Manchester Evening News carried a number of personal testimonies about the impact of the chaos. Leigh Burke, 55, is a team leader at Royal Bolton Hospital. He commutes from Didsbury to Bolton and said:
“I’m late to work all the time, it’s affecting my job. It’s an utter shambles.”
Louise Kirby, who commutes daily from Bromley Cross to Victoria, added:
“It’s horrific. I keep having panic attacks because it’s been so crowded. I saw a man pass out.”
Tom Moss, 24, a PR manager who lives in Glossop and works in Altrincham, pays £104 a month for his pass and said:
“I just want the trains to be on time. I just feel angry. I can’t take much more of it.”
There are thousands more personal stories that I could describe: personal difficulties and struggles that have a significant social and economic impact. Businesses and individuals who rely on rail transport suffer consequences from this disruption that carry very real costs.
This is not just a one-off. Disruption of this scale and severity, particularly when passengers experience it endlessly over an extended period, destroys faith and trust in the railway and drives people away from rail into their cars. Last week, figures showed that rail passenger usage has fallen yet again—this time, the fall was the biggest in 25 years. Not only does that mean more congestion, worse air pollution and an increased contribution to climate change, but it threatens the very sustainability of the railway.