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It is a pleasure to take part in this debate and to support the motion standing in the names of my Front-Bench colleagues. I also wish to thank members of the Transport Committee for their informed contributions to the debate, and I am delighted that Huw Merriman is a supporter of keeping the guards on the trains—well done on that. [Interruption.] Perhaps it is qualified support.
As a member of the Transport Committee and a regular rail user, I have been following the recent regression of the rail service, particularly in my region, with great concern. The catastrophic May timetable changes seem to have been completely avoidable. The Secretary of State ignored warnings and failed to delay or phase in the changes.
Yesterday, my Transport Committee colleagues and I spent three hours asking questions of and taking evidence from representatives from Northern, GTR and Network Rail. I was quite interested to hear the Secretary of State say in response to a comment made by the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Andy McDonald, that he made the decision to proceed with the changes in July 2017, because my understanding from what the witnesses said yesterday is that concerns were expressed at a meeting involving stakeholders and Network Rail in January, some six months before the ultimate decision was made. There was ample opportunity for the Secretary of State and his advisers in the Department to intervene and identify some mitigating actions, which could have included either delaying the implementation or phasing it in.