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Confidence in the Secretary of State for Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:21 pm on 19th June 2018.

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Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Labour, Bedford 3:21 pm, 19th June 2018

I agree with what my hon. Friend says, because I am a commuter and I see the trouble at Bedford station every day. Almost every hour, a train is either delayed or cancelled. This Government need to take control and do something about this urgently.

Two weeks ago, in this Chamber, I asked the Secretary of State to reinstate EMT peak rail services. His response was that that would be the logical solution to the problem, yet two weeks later those trains are still speeding through Bedford half empty and not stopping. On Friday, he finally wrote to me to tell me that he cannot make this happen after all, as, apparently, it will make some trains 13 minutes later further up the track. Tell that to my constituents who have to wait an hour or more for a train and do not see their children before they go to bed. Tell them that a 13-minute delay on a journey to Sheffield is a good enough reason for these services not to be reinstated. EMT says that these services are already overcrowded. In his letter on Friday, the managing director of EMT said that

“there are few, if any seats available”.

Yet EMT’s guide to seat availability says that all but one of the peak-time trains travelling between Wellingborough and St Pancras have seating available. Most are running at 75% capacity or less; we can all see the empty seats, but we just cannot get on those trains.

I have no idea why there is such an absence of will to sort this problem, but this is a mess, and it is clear now that there was never any intention of bringing inter-city fast trains back after two years either, because if they cannot make it happen now, when Thameslink is not operating a full service, they are not going to be able to make it happen when it eventually is. All we have heard are excuses. The truth is the industry needs to work together to resolve this quickly. The Secretary of State should have a grip on this weeks ago—months ago, in fact. I warned him and the Minister many times that this timetable will not work for Bedford, but they completely ignored that and carried on regardless. He and his Department have spent a good proportion of the past few weeks putting together the invitation to tender for the new east midlands franchise. Is this farce not proof enough for him that rail franchising does not work? My constituents need solutions and they need them urgently. They need solutions before things get even worse. If the Secretary of State cannot fix this, he should resign and give the job to someone who can.