Latest Rail News

13.01.17

Grayling rules out independent assessment on TfL rail devolution

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, has ruled out an independent assessment on whether to devolve suburban rail services in the capital to Transport for London (TfL).

Grayling was asked the question by the shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, in a House of Commons debate yesterday regarding Grayling’s plans to improve services for passengers on Southeastern rail.

McDonald accused Grayling of putting “party politics ahead of passengers” for rejecting the agreed proposals in the wake of the transport secretary’s leaked letter to former London mayor Boris Johnson intimating that he would prefer rail services in the capital to remain “out of the clutches” of a Labour mayor.

“The secretary of state’s leaked letter reveals that he reneged on the suburban rail agreement because of his obsession with keeping services ‘out of the clutches’ of a potential Labour Mayor –those are his words,” McDonald said. “He has put party politics ahead of passengers and clearly prefers to see trains running late than running on time under Labour.

“Will he now agree to an independent assessment of the proposal by a respected figure out of  his department, given yesterday’s revelations of conflicting commercial interests, to restore credibility to the process and ensure proper consideration of the needs of long-suffering passengers?”

Grayling had clarified his reasons for rejecting London mayor Sadiq Khan’s proposals for devolution earlier in the debate, saying that the mayor’s plans offered no extra capacity for passengers but a “whole lot of unfunded, uncosted promises” and involved a “substantial top-down reorganisation”.

The transport secretary said that his decision had been made following analysis of Khan’s business plan and discussion with neighbouring authorities, despite Johnson previously being in favour of the idea.

Grayling turned the tables on the shadow transport secretary as he criticised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s comments that he would theoretically join train drivers on the picket line after Southern rail staff resumed their strikes this week.

“I cannot believe what I have just heard from the honourable gentleman,” Grayling said. “He talks about putting party politics before passengers in the week when the leader of the opposition said that he would join a picket line to perpetuate the unnecessary strikes on Southern rail that are causing so much damage to passengers.”

“I will not take the honourable gentleman seriously until I hear him condemning those strikes and telling the workers to go back to work,” Grayling added.

Earlier this week, London TravelWatch called for the DfT to make up for its refusal to devolve London rail services with a new round of improvements in the upcoming franchises, including stations, more frequent services and better reliability.

In a separate question regarding the public sector in rail franchising, the Eltham MP Clive Efford commented that there was widespread support in London for public ownership of the railway, with 58% of people polled by TfL in favour of the mayor assuming control of suburban services.

Grayling poured cold water on the idea, reiterating that Khan’s plans had not been costed properly and did not offer improved capacity, as his planned proposals would do.

“So far from this mayor, we have seen a fare freeze that was not a fare freeze and a London of no rail strikes with a rail strike last Monday,” Grayling said. “I do not take the mayor’s promises at face value, I am afraid.”

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Comments

Lutz   13/01/2017 at 14:50

Grayling was right to block the devolution; there are merits in the concept, but there were clear failings that came to light as a result of due diligence. For the proposals to work, there must be substance to the plans.

Isacc Watts   16/01/2017 at 06:53

The correct decision by Grayling. Passengers would certainly not benefit from Sidiq Khan & TfL's 'empire-building'.

Tothehills   16/01/2017 at 10:12

The decision not to give the lines to TfL may well have been the right decision, certainly Sadiq Khan was empire building, but to have been revealed that it was a spite ridden political decision leaves him looking a bit of a muppet. It then begs the sorts of questions like why scrape the rail electrification to Bristol (a major economic centre in the UK) but maintain the electrification to Blackpool (seat of rail transport minister but an economic non-entity - sorry Blackpool). So what other rail decisions are being rendered based on purely for political spite.

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