TWO Wharfedale MPs have taken a train operator to task over reliability issues and a failure to resolve strikes.

John Grogan (Lab, Keighley) and Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West) made their points about Northern rail during a debate at Westminster before Parliament broke up for Christmas.

Both MPs say their rail-related workload has increased significantly in recent months due to a ‘deluge’ of complaints from constituents about the poor quality* of service. They have also been fielding complaints linked to ongoing industrial action being taken by RMT members on Northern trains over a long-running dispute about the role of guards. (The trade union has now announced that strikes will continue on every Saturday of January, 2019).

Mr Grogan said: “There are two main lines throughout the Keighley constituency, the Airedale and Wharfedale lines.

“Many people built their lives - their journeys into work and their children’s journeys to school, and so on - around those lines. Traditionally, they have been high performing, which makes it even more frustrating for so many people that over the last year the performance levels have sunk abysmally low.

“In my frustration, I have been considering who we can write to so I am writing today to Deutsche Bahn, which ultimately owns Northern rail.

“We are told we cannot possibly have nationalisation, but we have a nationalised rail company in Northern rail - it just happens to be German.

“I hope that, in the new year a very senior executive of Deutsche Bahn will come to this House and talk to Honourable Members from Yorkshire.”

He added: “It would be remiss not to mention the strike, which is causing difficulties for the Yorkshire economy.

“In Scotland, a deal was done where the guard would continue to have a safety-critical role - the driver would open the doors and the guard would close them.

“There are compromises that can be reached. Having beer and sandwiches at No 10 is perhaps out of fashion, but we need Minsters to get the different parties together to end this strike and have proper negotiations.”

Mr Sobel backed that position. He said: “Many of my constituents travel from Otley (to Menston) to catch the train on the Wharfedale line, and they all find that the trains are overcrowded.

“Without the guard they would really struggle to use that service, particularly as the bus and train times are not compatible with each other. They need that additional support when they reach train stations on the Wharfedale line.”

Northern has asked the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to set up an independent inquiry into the key issues behind the dispute. The RMT, however, has dismissed that as a ‘PR stunt’ and is calling for ‘meaningful talks’.

*Statistics for the month to November 10 showed that only 40 per cent of Northern’s services had been on time.