Scathing attack on Grayling over East Coast rail

Chris Grayling faced fresh calls to resign as Transport Secretary yesterday as Labour MPs brutally criticised his handling of the collapse of the East Coast Main Line railway franchise.

Transport Secretary Chirs Grayling.
Transport Secretary Chirs Grayling.

The Opposition failed in a bid to cut Mr Grayling’s pay by £2,400 - the cost of a season ticket to London from his Epsom and Ewell constituency - after deeming that his handling of the Virgin-Stagecoach agreement had “fallen desperately short” of a Minister.

But MPs used the Labour debate to launch a scathing attack on his record in office.

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Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff said the privatisation of the railways has been a “deep and unmitigated disaster” with a franchise system that is an “utter failure” that has left passengers paying “more and more of their hard earned money in exchange for a shoddier and shoddier service”.

The public are now “frankly sick of seeing the Secretary of State, he comes to this House time and time again to tell myself and my colleagues that our constituents’ experience of travelling by train - overpriced, late and packed in like sardines - aren’t accurate and don’t reflect the real picture,” she added.

The Labour MP accused Mr Grayling of “ducking and diving” meetings with her and colleagues concerned about the state of the railways in the North.

Quoting this newspaper, she went on: “I’m quite worried that if we continue to say to the Secretary of State that we’ll cut his pay if he continues some of the incompetencies, that he will actually turn out to be on less than the minimum wage by that point.

“Surely the buck has to stop somewhere.

“The Yorkshire Post recently took an unprecedented step of calling on the Secretary of State to resign and with a record like this surely he should and must be considering his position.”

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald accused the Transport Secretary of being “asleep at the wheel” and said he was “incapable of being direct with Members of Parliament and the public alike”.

He said: “Stagecoach knew they wouldn’t meet their revenue targets weeks after taking over East Coast in March 2015; the company was in constant dialogue with the department about it.

“The Secretary of State has been in post since July 2016 and must have known about this for that period of time. Why did he do nothing? Hasn’t this Transport Secretary been asleep at the wheel?”

He added: “The strategic vision embodies a Secretary of State’s approach to his ministerial brief and to announcements in this House, smoke, mirrors, ambiguities, jargon, technicalities, empty aspirations and discourtesy.”

Referring to Mr Grayling’s stint as Justice Secretary, after which his successor Michael Gove reversed a number of his policies, the Shadow Transport Secretary added: “Like his time at justice, this Secretary of State must hope that he be moved on before his wrecking ball approach to decisions at the DfT (Department for Transport) reveal their true horrors.”