East Midlands Rail Franchise

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:44 am on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy) 10:44 am, 11th April 2019

Yet again, we have not had a statement from the Department for Transport. We have to rely on media announcements and urgent questions to hold the Department to account, but when the Minister comes to the Dispatch Box, he says, “Oh, that’s a lot of questions.” That is because we are not getting information. Virgin Trains East Coast walked away from the east coast main line owing £2 billion. Many people called for Stagecoach not to be allowed to bid for other franchises, but the Department for Transport dug its heels in, saying that it could bid for franchises and then sat on the non-compliant bid for a long time. Why has the Department adopted such contradictory positions? Martin Griffiths, the Stagecoach chief executive, said:

“We are extremely concerned both at the DfT’s decision and its timing. The Department has had full knowledge of these bids for a lengthy period”.

Again, what discussions were held on pensions and how long has the Department sat on the non-compliant bid before making a decision?

What will happen with the west coast main line franchise, as we are told by the media that Virgin Trains will disappear in a year? Virgin previously won the 2012 franchise after a legal challenge, so what are the risks of further challenges from Virgin after this decision today, and will the Minister provide any legal advice that the Department has taken?

Abellio in Scotland pays the living wage. Is it part of this franchise award that all employees get the living wage? How robust are the pension protections in this Abellio franchise and how will pensions be protected in other franchises? Clearly, this is now a major issue.

Many of us have called for the Transport Secretary to resign. Now we have the irony of the Transport Secretary threatening the Prime Minister to resign over her position on Europe. Will he follow through on his threat, or will the Government take action and make the Secretary of State resign and shake up the Department?