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Confidence in the Secretary of State for Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:49 pm on 19th June 2018.

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Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 1:49 pm, 19th June 2018

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets that figure from. If the Government take franchises back when they run out it costs diddly squat to take them back—zero—so he is talking utter nonsense.

No one other than the Government hold responsibility for their dogmatic stance. This dogma causes them to stand by and defend the rail structure that is manifestly not fit for purpose. It then falls to the Department for Transport to get involved to try to run the railway properly. It cannot do this. Today’s railway cannot run itself effectively because it was decapitated by privatisation and chopped into bits to facilitate private profit taking. Because there is no guiding mind overseeing the railway, the Department has to wade into the railway much more deeply than it should. Having taken this approach, the Government assume a greater deal of responsibility, but they have not shown themselves capable of discharging that responsibility.

The Department for Transport’s oversight has failed in three major ways. First, it appears that, when there was a decision on whether to press ahead with the timetable changes affecting Northern, the Department stood against allowing a deferral. Why did the Department not believe the professional advice it was given? Secondly, the Transport Committee heard from Network Rail yesterday that Thameslink phasing was first raised by the GTR readiness board in June 2017. Mr Halsall, the route managing director for the south-east, said the Department stood by and did not make a decision until November 2017—an astonishing five-month delay. What did the Secretary of State know and when did he know it?