Public Transport: Boxing Day 2018

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 24th January 2018.

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Photo of John Grogan John Grogan Labour, Keighley 11:00 am, 24th January 2018

I accept that the spirit of enterprise should be there, and I have some good news for the hon. Gentleman before I sit down. I will certainly take up the his invitation—it will be one of the highlights of my parliamentary year to come to such an august body.

I do not want to adopt a particularly party political approach, but I would make a gentle reflection to both Front-Benchers—it is a great pleasure to see the shadow Minister for Rail, my fellow Yorkshire MP and hon. Friend Rachael Maskell in the debate, and I am glad she is taking an interest. There has been a tendency, as we might expect, that when parties are in opposition, they draw attention to this problem. I spoke to the office of Stephen Hammond earlier today and pointed out that I would gently draw attention to his quote from 2008, where he said:

“Thousands of families travel the length and breadth of the country to visit relatives and loved ones on Boxing Day. But yet again this year the railways will grind to a halt, forcing people onto gridlocked motorways…
Labour just do not get how important the railway is to people at Christmas-time.”

My hon. Friend Andy McDonald has rightly mentioned that quote every Boxing day since he has been in office, and rightly asks for progress. However, I have not yet seen either Front-Bench team say that we definitely will make progress. However the railways are owned, and whether or not the major franchises come back into public ownership under a Labour Government, I hope a commitment can be made to Boxing day transport. I hope both parties can commit themselves to that.

I said there was potential good news for Boxing day 2018. That is largely concentrated in the north of England. For the past three years, Merseyrail has run a service. That shows the power of devolution. Merseyrail has a particularly close relationship with the Mayor of Liverpool and the councils on Merseyside, which have a greater consultative role in relation to the terms of the franchise and so on.