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Although the Secretary of State is no longer in his place, I thank him for meeting me last week to talk in detail about the reasons for the timetabling meltdown in Batley and Spen. I am grateful for his reassurance that, over time, things will settle down.
Last Friday morning, I spent time outside Batley railway station to speak to commuters about their experience of commuting and to hear how things are, we hope, getting better. Sadly, that was not the feedback I got. I was startled by how chaotic and unreliable the service between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester still is.
I heard from Mandy that her regular journey from Batley to Leeds, during the timetable chaos and beyond, is “the worst commuting experience I have ever had.” She went on to say that “to say there is only standing room is an understatement. Passengers are crammed into a limited number of carriages like sardines.”
I spoke to Dean, who uses trains every day. He said that travelling by train often adds two hours to his day due to delays, with “extra hours away from home on top of a long working day.” He went on to say that “the situation is threatening the livelihoods of many.” Dean wanted me to ask directly whether, if he were to lose his job due to mismanagement of the railways, the Minister and the Government would pay his mortgage and support his family.
I also met Rachael, who was forced to spend her journey standing in the toilet with six other commuters, as there was no space anywhere else. She told me that, as late as this week, her regular service left people on the platform, without opening its doors, as it was too full by the time it arrived in Batley. Seventy people were left waiting over 70 minutes for the next train.