Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said that the franchise model on Britain’s railways needs to be re-examined in order to avoid a repeat of the failures seen across the transport infrastructure in the last few months
Mr Grayling said that a “more joined up approach” was needed between track and train operators in order to make sure that occurrences like the debacle seen across the North’s railways over the summer, along with repeated failures of the East Coast Mainline (ECML) franchise, did not reoccur.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said that he had not offered his resignation over his handling over the railway crisis, adding that it was “my job to sort it out”.
However, he refused to be drawn on calls from more than 80 MPs and Peers that the North should be allocated a further £100bn in this Autumn’s budget to improve its transport infrastructure.
When asked if the failures on the ECML were evidence the franchise system was broken, Mr Grayling said: “There are clearly issues.
“If you look at the East Coast Mainline, self evidently, that franchise has failed three times. We are not going to go back and do the same thing again.
“And if you look at the challenge on our railways today, the timetable problems we have had over the last few months, it is quite clear to me that we need a much more joined up relationship between the operation on the track and train.
“That is something we are now looking to accelerate. I have been doing it step by step. The East Coast Mainline and the creation of LNER are going to be an important part of that. There is more work to be done on bringing together track and train in order to make sure the railway is much more joined up than it is at the moment.”
Denying he had offered his resignation over the failings, the transport secretary, who was in region to officially open a redevelopment of the terminal building at Leeds-Bradford Airport, said: “We have a problem in the North that has been caused by an investment programme that has gone wrong, ironically. My job is to sort that out and we are making progress.”
Regarding the letter calling for enhanced spending and faster delivery of improvements he said: “We are moving ahead with Northern Powerhouse Rail now and Transport for the North is working on a detailed business case for it.”
Mr Grayling courted controversy last week when he accused Northern leaders of “talking down the North” over their criticism over the railway fiasco. When asked what he feels they should be doing differently he replied: “Absolutely this summer has been really unhappy for commuters and everyone that has been involved has every reason to be angry, that is why we have commissioned and independent inquiry into how this has happened.
“But actually there is a huge investment programme taking place - it would be nice to hear a little bit of that occasionally.”
Earlier this Summer Mr Grayling told the House of Commons that it was not the Transport Secretary’s purview to run the railways. When asked who was publicly accountable for its management he said: “The trains are run by private companies, Network Rail is an independent business in which the government is a shareholder. Of course we have a significant influence but politicians don’t actually do the timetables and I don’t actually think politicians should run the railways, and I don’t think the public want politicians to run the railways. We want real professionals and that is what is happening.
“The challenge we have got is that the divide between track and train is too great and we need to bring that together.”