Fares, rail policy and DfT news

23.11.18

Rail parliamentary roundup: Grayling denies ‘tin ear’ jibes on northern investment, investigation launched into SWR’s ‘Mayhem Monday’

‘Not a question of having a tin ear’

The transport secretary has hit back against claims that the government has underinvested in transport in the north following new analysis from the IPPR this week.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Chris Grayling said the thinktank, which revealed that the transport spending in London was double that of the north since the launch of the Northern Powerhouse in 2014, was using “misleading comparators,” and that the north is currently receiving more expenditure per head of population than the south.

Wakefield Labour MP accused Grayling of “showing a bit of a tin ear” to the experiences of her constituents, and questioned the level of investment in the northern region.

“There are performance issues that are not good enough,” Grayling said.

“It is not a question of having a tin ear. We are actively working to try to improve things on a network that is delivering more services, rather than fewer, and in which substantial ​investment is happening. One of the frustrations is that the timetable problems in the north this year were triggered by an investment programme that was delayed.”

DfT prevents Yorkshire-London journey time improvements to prevent timetable ‘shambles’

Sir Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East, probed the transport secretary as to whether the DfT was “nervous” by forcing Stagecoach to lengthen the journey times of trains from Sheffield to London, allowing the network to accommodate more GTR commuter trains due to the government’s fear of another summer timetable fiasco.

“On the Midland Main Line, Stagecoach was forced to lengthen the journey times of peak-time trains from Sheffield to London to accommodate more Thameslink commuter trains,” Sir Clive said. “Is it true that the DfT told Stagecoach it cannot revisit that in the next timetable changes because of the shambles last time and the nervousness that has created in the department?”

“We would dispute that we have done anything to disadvantage Sheffield to help GTR. We are of course doing a massive upgrade programme on the Midland Main Line,” Grayling replied.

South Western Rail (SWR): Network Rail investigation launched into ‘Mayhem Monday’

An independent Network Rail investigation has been launched into what was dubbed “Mayhem Monday” this week when commuters using SWR routes were impacted by late-running engineering works.

Passengers were left stranded at platforms on Monday morning when Network Rail engineering works overran by almost six hours, causing heavy disruption including no SWR services running to and from London Waterloo until 10:00am.

Yesterday the new rail minister Andrew Jones said Network Rail has opened an investigation into the late works: “The secretary of state spoke to Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, at seven on Monday morning, and he made clear his dissatisfaction with the incident and demanded action.

“Network Rail has started an independent investigation to look at how the work was planned and delivered, and how the resulting disruption was managed. It has already made management changes, and new leadership on the Wessex route will start next week.”

Grayling skirts around Scottish rail devolution

The government has reaffirmed its refusal to grant greater devolved powers to Scotland’s rail network.

SNP MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun Alan Brown argued that despite the Abellio ScotRail franchise being the “best performing large franchisee,” 50% of delays and cancellations are attributable to Network Rail. He called on the government to consider devolution of Network Rail to allow the Scottish Government to take greater responsibility.

Grayling responded, claiming that former transport minister Tom Harris’ report into Scottish rail devolution did not recommend devolving Network Rail’s powers to Scotland.

“Given the SNP’s less-than-good record in running other services in Scotland, it escapes me why he thinks that devolving Network Rail would make a difference to train services in Scotland,” he said.

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Image credit: PA Images

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