It’s time for the Transport Minister to go, that’s the view of a local MP who said this week’s delays and cancellations are the final straw.
Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton, joined the growing ranks of MPs calling for Chris Grayling to consider his position.
A vote of censure – no confidence – in Mr Grayling was debated in the House of Commons and, in a rare move, a vote forced by Labour to reduce his ministerial salary by £2,400 due to his handling of transport issues. The sum is the cost of a season ticket from his constituency to London.
It was defeated by 304 to 271. But the critics remain and Mr Grayling was forced to apologise for the issues.
It follows a series of delays and cancellations faced by rail passengers when new timetables were introduced this week by Northern and TransPennine Express that saw just one in five trains between Dewsbury and Leeds leave on time on Monday and Tuesday.
Huddersfield trains were delayed and many rush-hour commuter trains in the Colne Valley cancelled.
Ms Sherriff said: “This Transport Secretary simply doesn’t care about the misery he’s causing for train passengers in our area.
“He’s dodged meetings with MPs who wanted to raise constituent complaints. He’s cancelled massive projects like Crossrail for the North, but still been able to dig up the money for London and the South East all whilst Yorkshire saw the biggest fare increase in the country. And now an accidental re-nationalisation.
“The buck has to stop somewhere. He’s got to go.”
The move follows the collapse of the East Coast service. It was re-nationalised after operators Virgin and Stagecoach could not meet the promised payments. It means the operators avoid £2bn of payments.
During the debate Ms Sherriff said the public were “sick of seeing the Secretary of State telling us our constituents’ experience of travelling by train – overpriced, late and packed in like sardines – aren’t accurate and don’t reflect the real picture.
“His grand promises to improve the daily commute for people in my constituency being made in one breath, only for the Secretary of State to turn his back in another.”
She added that the public were paying big rail firms “more and more in return for a shoddy service.”
She said the timetable changes across the Yorkshire region were in “meltdown with barely an eyebrow rasied” in Westminster.
Mr Grayling apologised for problems suffered by passengers, passing the buck for the “failings” to Network Rail.
He said it was “not good enough” for people to face disruptions and reserved criticism for Network Rail, the state-owned company responsible for Britain’s rail infrastructure, as he claimed they left the rest of the industry “struggling to catch up” after it was “far too late” in finalising planned timetable changes.
Speaking in the Commons as MPs debated concerns over his handling of the East Coast franchise, Mr Grayling said: “What we’ve seen in the last few days hasn’t been good enough.
“No-one should under-estimate the logistical challenge of introducing a timetable change.”