It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl, and to follow my hon. Friend Thelma Walker. I congratulate my hon. Friend Paula Sherriff on securing this important debate. As a fellow Yorkshire MP, I share her concerns, as well as those highlighted by all hon. Friends present, about the unacceptable train services in our region. She spoke very well and highlighted that she knows only too well the problems with those services. We all receive huge amounts of correspondence from rightly dissatisfied constituents.
Time and time again, constituents share with me the unacceptable number of delayed or cancelled rail services. People in Barnsley are forced to endure—particularly at rush hour—the ancient, overcrowded and overpriced trains that they are packed into when one eventually arrives. Many are forced to spend a fortune on alternative travel arrangements on top of the already inflated rail season tickets for which they have paid nearly £2,000—the annual cost between Barnsley and Leeds, for example.
I will use this opportunity, as so many hon. Members have done, to share some of the stories that constituents have shared with me. One wrote to me about the toll that the substandard rail services are taking on their mental health, as delays consistently cause them to arrive home late and miss out on family life. Another voiced his worry that his son, who is working his first job at a shopping centre little more than half an hour away, is forced to leave hours early to make it on time, and still faces termination to his employment because he cannot manage to do so. That is, quite simply, completely and utterly unacceptable.
Those people are just trying to go about their daily lives, get to work on time and get home again. Instead, they are continually out of pocket, let down, and possibly even laid off because of the appalling mismanagement of our rail services. We saw the chaos caused by the timetable changes earlier this year, which so many hon. Friends have talked about. Since then, we have seen no progress. We have had more delays, more cancellations, and the same antiquated trains.
What is more, my constituents in Barnsley East are told that spending per head in Yorkshire and the Humber has actually fallen under the great northern powerhouse project, while it has doubled in London. Is it any wonder that nearly two thirds of the public back taking our rail services out of the hands of these dodgy profit-driven private companies and back into public control, to be run in the interests of the customers who depend on them?