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Confidence in the Secretary of State for Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:44 pm on 19th June 2018.

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Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham 2:44 pm, 19th June 2018

Absolutely; someone has to take responsibility. When my constituents were told they had to suffer this disruption, they accepted that, because a major refurbishment was taking place, but they were told that things would improve when the services were restored. They are now told that they will have fewer central London destinations to choose from because, apparently, it is very difficult to cross trains over on the western side of Lewisham station. We are told that because that creates too much congestion, we have to have a service cut. That is despite the fact that we have just spent £9 billion on this project, with £1 billion of that for the refurbishment of London Bridge. My constituents are incredibly angry.

However, as the project is coming to an end and the services are starting to be reintroduced—except those that are going to be cut, of course, under the new franchise, which is a direct decision of the Secretary of State—the infrastructure around the new project is starting to crumble. On 5 April, there was a broken rail and people were stuck on a train for five hours. The merest incident of severe weather leaves people stranded on trains for hours—on freezing cold trains with no electricity.

The franchise is run right at the cusp, meaning that whenever something goes wrong, it turns into a major incident involving a major delay. There are not enough drivers, there is not enough maintenance, and the infrastructure is crumbling around the new project at London Bridge. However, the Secretary of State allows Govia, which currently runs the franchise, to rebid. He now says that the person at the top of Govia has resigned—Charles Horton has gone—but that the company is apparently good enough to continue running the service. That is unacceptable and someone must accept responsibility.