We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

"More Mismanagement by the Tory Government!", say Lib Dems as Govia Thameslink still not back on Track

London Bridge Railway Station

London Bridge Station

As with so many other things, this Brexit-obsessed Tory government has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to running the railways.

The fundamantal mistake was made shortly they got into power in 2015. One of their first acts was to cobble together "one huge, diverse and highly complex rail franchise" (words of the Transport Select Committee) made up of Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and the Great Northern franchises. They then failed to put into place any management procedures with enough capacity to monitor this mega-franchise effectively.

Thirdly they overlooked the disruption which the Thameslink Programme, a substatial infrastructure development project, would inevitably cause - especially at London Bridge.

Then they were gullible and over-optimistic and failed to challenge the franchise holders' "wildly inaccurate" assumptions about how they would deal with the London Bridge works. The Select Committee stated that this "raised serious questions about the Department for Transport's (DfT's) competence to run an effective franchising programme."

The Committee also said that if the DfT does not develop contigency plans for restructuring or terminating the franchise - i.e. to put itself in a position to make a "clear and credible threat" - then it will be unable in practice to manage the franchise.

The Comittee stated that it regarded the franchise operators, the RMT and the government all "to some extent culpable" for the series of disruptive strikes that had been plagueing commuters and other travellers last year, but added it that it expected the DfT to be "more hands-on with monitoring franchises, and the Southern Railways mess inn particular," as well as fostering negotiations with the unions regarding driver-only operated services.

Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling - who can't run the railways.

The DfT's lame response was to protest that they do "monitor closely the performance of all rail franches" and that "changing management or franchises... would only cause more disruptionand delay the introduction of new trains by Southern."

Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Tring, Nick Hollinghurst, said, "The DfT's response to the Select Committee is disrespectful. It amounts to saying, "It's so unfair - and we're not going to listen to you anyway!"

"The root cause of this and similar shambles is because the DfT is presided over by Tory Chris Grayling, who is more concerned with appearing on TV to tell us how wonderful Brexit will be. Instead of concentrating on his current responsibilities he appears more interested in preparing for more trade with Asia and less with Europe. This could have been behind his recent decision to buy a fleet of inefficient dual-fuel trains from Hitachi and to cancel the South Wales electrification which would have enabled cheaper and lighter all-electric trains to be used."

Nick Hollinghurst concluded, "Grayling's not focussed on his job. As a result, the travelling public has to put up with delays and cancellations, the taxpayer gets poor value for money and the industry is disrupted by a lack of any consistent strategic planning."