Chris Grayling denies ‘tin ear’ claims over railway funding in North

Chris Grayling. PIC: PA
Chris Grayling. PIC: PA
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Chris Grayling has denied accusations that he has a “tin ear” after he was criticised over a lack of investment in railways in the North.

The Transport Secretary insisted he was “actively working to try and improve things”, amid questions from a former shadow transport secretary on the reliability of northern train services.

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Labour’s Mary Creagh, speaking during Transport questions in the Commons, accused Mr Grayling of “showing a bit of a tin ear to the lived experience” of her constituents.

“One of whom took six hours to travel the 75 miles between Wakefield and Scarborough - a feat that with a good wind I could have achieved on a bicycle in the same amount of time,” she said.

“Can he tell us why the IPPR is showing that capital investment in the North has fallen at a time when the need for investment in our services has never been higher?”

But Mr Grayling said it was “not a question of having a tin ear”, telling the Wakefield MP the network was delivering “more services rather than fewer”.

The Cabinet minister said: “The IPPR keeps using misleading comparisons. The IPA figures, which are the official figures prepared for Government, have already shown that actually per capita the North is currently receiving, and will over the coming years, be receiving more expenditure per head of population than the South.

“And of course in the North, in her own area, the flagship programme for the next five years on rail TransPennine upgrade is the most substantial anywhere in the country.

“Her constituency is also benefiting from increased services on the route to Knottingley - I do accept that there have been some real issues with TransPennine Express on the route to Scarborough - those are things that need to be addressed, there are performance issues that are not good enough.

“So it’s not a question of having a tin ear - we are actively working to try and improve things on a network that is delivering more services rather than fewer and in which there is substantial investment happening.”

Later in the question session, Tory former minister Sir Desmond Swayne said it must be “ghastly to be the Rail Minister”.

Referencing the resignation of former rail minister Jo Johnson, he asked: “Does he think that it might have contributed to his predecessor’s resignation?”

Newly-appointed Transport Minister Andrew Jones replied: “That question is flawed - there is nothing ghastly at all about being the Rail Minister and I can’t understand where he is coming from on that question.

“As regards the reasons for my predecessor’s departure, I think they are already documented elsewhere.”

Labour’s Clive Efford (Eltham) welcomed Mr Jones to his new ministerial role, adding: “My constituents can be forgiven for thinking that new rail ministers turn up more frequently than South East trains.”