1. ITV Report

The "Northern Powerhouse" means nothing when you can't even get to work

A familiar scene for Northern passengers Photo: Fiona Ruddy

By Daniel Hewitt, Political Correspondent

A penny for George Osborne's thoughts right now.

The man who masterminded the Northern Powerhouse project sits in his London Evening Standard office off Kensington High Street, as the promises he made to the people of Liverpool and Leeds, Manchester and Middlesbrough, Sheffield and Sunderland crash and burn.

At the heart of his vision for the North was a rail network fit for the 21st century - faster trains on newly electrified lines and new high-speed journeys from east to west to provide the Northern economy with the infrastructure it needs to thrive.

Instead, the North of England has come to a standstill. Day after day, night after night, passengers stand at platforms staring at screens telling them their train to work and their train home has been cancelled, again, while a computer-generated apology echoes endlessly in the ears.

As I stood at Manchester Victoria on Thursday night during rush hour, every single journey was either cancelled or delayed. Hundreds of people stood still, stranded, in a newly-refurbished, state-of-the-art, multi-million pound railway station opened with much fanfare by the Transport Secretary last year. A scene that summed up what the Northern Powerhouse has become - all style and no substance.

My wife, who pays £2,400 per year to Northern for her season ticket, can't remember the last journey she took that was on time. Across the North of England people are missing business meetings, doctor's appointments, job interviews, and flights. Some are even having to quit their jobs and get new ones to work around the mess Northern is presiding over.

When speaking to commuters in Manchester yesterday, I refrained from asking them what this all meant for the Northern Powerhouse for fear of being (deservedly) punched in the face.

Out of the chaos has come the brilliant "Northern Fail" app - depressingly documenting every single delayed and cancelled journey to help Northerners simply get home. It's the kind of entrepreneurial innovation the former Chancellor would be proud of.

The Transport Secretary was far too slow to realise the chaos unfolding two hundred miles from Whitehall. He insists the government is putting billions of pounds into modernising the rail network in the North, but he's also putting his faith in Northern to turn this shambles around - reluctant to even threaten the company with losing it's franchise.

But the truth is, the people currently stood on platforms with nowhere to go don't care who runs the railways; right now they just want to get to work at the start of the day, and home at the end of it, on time.

When the government can't even make that happen, the Northern Powerhouse means nothing.

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