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Confidence in the Secretary of State for Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:27 pm on 19th June 2018.

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Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington 3:27 pm, 19th June 2018

Absolutely; that is a key point. I am kind of long in the tooth now, but I remember the dreadful train accident at Ladbroke Grove, where 31 people were killed and 500 injured; a dear friend of mine was killed in the Southall train disaster, in which seven were killed and more than 140 were injured; and I remember another accident at Clapham Junction. What with the complexity of the new signalling systems at places like London Bridge, with large numbers of tracks, it is safety-critical that the drivers are fully aware of which signals actually apply to them. It is a mistake for the Secretary of State to imply that ASLEF, representing the train drivers, should somehow make a concession on the training to which its members are subjected. When I get on a train, I want to be absolutely certain that it is completely safe and that the drivers are familiar with the track and the signalling system. I also want to know that there is a guard on the train, so that if anything happens—if anyone is attacked or taken ill—or there is a disabled or blind person or a woman with children travelling, the guard will be able to assist. That is reasonable in such circumstances.

I agree with the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle about the GTR chief executive, Charles Horton, who seemed like a thoroughly decent man. He said that he was deeply sorry for the timetable disruptions. It is a bit unfair that he seems to be carrying the can, when I suspect the blame should be apportioned further up the food chain. The witnesses yesterday were well schooled in collective responsibility, but ultimately the buck must stop with the Secretary of State. It is not good enough just to keep saying sorry.