RAIL travellers struggling to work or college on the region’s often-delayed trains will no doubt be sceptical at the transport secretary’s pledge that 2020 will be a “year of action” for the railways focused on the north.

While we share this cynicism, having reported so often on the disgraceful state of the region’s services, we welcome Grant Shapps’ coming to see for himself what the issues are, and the Government’s new-found concentration on transport infrastructure in the North.

What recent development could have provoked this level of interest?

Sarcasm aside, there are more fundamental issues at play than will be solved by a new station at Horden, or re-opening a branch line between Ashington and Blyth, however in demand these developments are. Before planning new stations and re-opening lines, might it be an idea to get the services we already have running punctually, reliably, and affordably?

Mr Shapps confirmed plans to strip Northern Rail of its franchise due to the its disastrous performance last week, but a potential nationalisation under an Operator of Last Resort is no silver bullet. Many of the franchise’s problems come back to infrastructure and staffing, and these issues would remain under a new operator, at least in the short term.

And that’s before we even consider how HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail fit into this complex picture.

So while we are glad rail services are a hot topic, we will reserve judgement on this “year of action” until a later date.