The raw deal that the North is getting on rail was highlighted at three events across the region during the Week of Action 27th September to 4th October.
Campaigners in Leeds distributed fliers for electrified, affordable and well-funded rail to evening rush-hour commuters. The ‘Fair Fares Now’ ticket/speech bubbles certainly attracted attention!
Over in Manchester campaigners lobbied delegates at the Conservative Party Conference with a ‘Thomas the Tank’ engine stunt. Delegates were asked to put money in an electric meter to fund electrification.
The Week of Action ended in Huddersfield. Local campaigners condemned the ‘Polluting, Pricey and Poorly Funded’ rail services in the region.
These three actions came three weeks after a letter appeared in the Times calling on Chris Grayling to re-consider plans to scrap electrification work across the north, the midlands and south Wales.
It was published in the Times and signed by 18 MPs, union chiefs, council leaders and community groups. And it coincided with communities and campaigners relaying a giant plug along the Midlands Mainline from London to Sheffield collecting names for our petition calling on the government to back rail electrification.
The Week of Action was timely, coinciding with the Conservative Party Conference. During the week, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged an extra £300 million for northern rail links.
One week earlier, Chris Grayling had done a ‘whistle-stop’ tour of Leeds and Manchester amid the backlash over the Government’s plans to abandon rail electrification schemes.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell condemned it as an ‘insult’. He said, “This really is a drop in the ocean compared to what is actually needed for our creaking railways, roads and infrastructure. After a year in the job, Philip Hammond just wants to continue with the seven years of Tory economic failure that has seen the level of investment in our country fall behind many of our international competitors.”
Andrew Allen of the Campaign for Better Transport has written about why electrification of rail is so important in addressing climate change and air pollution.
The final decision on electrification of the Transpennine route is due before Christmas. We intend to campaign and raise awareness up to – and possibly beyond – that point.