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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

Well, I am saying to the Secretary of State quite clearly that a competent Secretary of State would have known this right at the outset and taken the appropriate steps. He did not. He allowed the situation to unwind.

Thirdly, the Thameslink industry readiness board—readiness board, there’s a laugh—formally requested that the GTR timetable changes should be scaled back, yet the Department dithered for two months. GTR boss Mr Horton said the board did not have an executive role, so he could not explain who was responsible for the meltdown—no one accountable and no one responsible.

I do not want to personalise the issue and I do not expect the Secretary of State to know every detail of what happens in his Department—[Interruption.] No, it is just everything he does and everything he stands for; it’s nothing personal. However, the three points I have described are all important failures of the Department for Transport at a high level. Stephen Glaister from the Office for Rail and Road is not an appropriate person to conduct a review into the timetable failings. The ORR itself has failed in its regulation of Network Rail, so it cannot be expected to conduct an independent investigation. This is yet another bad judgment by the Secretary of State for Transport. A new rail timetable is due to be implemented in December 2018. What funds, resources and support will the Secretary of State provide to ensure Network Rail’s planning capability can deliver the changes due in six months?

Today’s Financial Times reports the managing director of Trenitalia complaining about Network Rail and, in particular, the lack of integration between Network Rail and the train operating companies since privatisation. Did the Italians not do their homework on the reality of the UK’s railway? Recent events demonstrate more than ever that our railway is not integrated. I am afraid that the breach of faith and trust is so great that the Secretary of State’s credibility will never recover. There comes a point when the publicly accountable politician in charge of the railway should step up and shoulder the blame. It seems to me, and I suspect to many rail users, that we have more than reached that point.