Michael Portillo Criticises Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling

Michael Portillo, the former Conservative Secretary of State for Defence and Shadow Chancellor, has criticised Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, who has refused to resign over the Brexit ferry contracts.

Speaking on BBC’s This Week programme, Portillo said:

“As Labour said in the chamber – the most incompetent minister of all time, probably. He is pro-Brexit and nearly all the other Eurosceptics have jumped ship now”.

Cross-Party Calls for Chris Grayling to Resign Over Seaborne Freight Crisis

There have been cross-party calls for the resignation of Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, following the collapse of a contract with Seaborne Freight. Grayling rejected concerns about the status of the contract which has now been cancelled.

Andy McDonald, the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said in a letter to Grayling:

“I was not alone in being astonished that you awarded a £14 million contract to a company with no money, no ships, no track record, no employees, no ports, one telephone line, and no working website or sailing schedule.”

Anna Soubry, the Conservative MP for Broxtowe, said:

“Grayling has no grip on the very serious nature of his job. The prime minister should also be considering whether there is not someone else who could do the job better.”

Government Backs Heathrow Expansion

Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, has confirmed that the Government will support the building of a third runway at Heathrow Airport. The proposal had been approved by the Labour Government in 2009, with a planned opening date of 2015, but it was cancelled by the then incoming Conservative Government led by David Cameron.

The Department for Transport said in a statement:

“Heathrow will be privately financed and costs will not fall on the taxpayer. To make sure expansion is delivered with consumers’ interests at heart, the government has asked the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure the scheme remains affordable while meeting the needs of passengers.

A new runway at Heathrow would provide benefits of up to £74 billion to passengers and the wider economy and create tens of thousands of local jobs. It will better connect the UK to the rest of world with an extra 16 million long-haul seats available by 2040.

Heathrow is already the UK’s biggest airport for passengers and freight and the north-west runway will almost double the airport’s capacity for goods, allowing businesses across the country to increase their exports and take advantage of new global customers”.

Chris Grayling added:

“Expansion at Heathrow presents a unique opportunity to deliver a multi-billion pound boost to our economy, strengthen our global links and maintain our position as a world leader in aviation.

As we leave the EU, the UK must remain one of the world’s best-connected and outward-looking countries and a third runway at Heathrow is the best option to deliver this.

We have listened to views through our consultations and will ensure a world-class package of measures to help any local communities affected by the expansion”.

Chris Grayling Calls for More Rail Lines to Re-Open as New Strategic Vision is Announced

Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, is today launching the Government’s strategic vision for the rail network. It includes plans to re-open previously closed lines, creating a new partnership for managing the track and trains and introducing new digital technologies.

Grayling said in a statement:

“The last few years have seen massive growth on Britain’s railways. This industry has reversed decades of decline under British Rail, delivered new investment and new trains, and doubled the number of passengers.

But now we need to build on that success by building a new model for the 2020s and beyond, one more able to deal with the huge rise in passenger numbers and the challenges of an increasingly congested network.

Rail passengers deserve a more reliable, more efficient service – and I will deliver it by ending the one-size-fits-all approach of franchising and bringing closer together the best of the public and private sector”.

The Department for Transport said in a statement:

“The Strategic vision for rail also commits to explore opportunities to restore capacity lost under the Beeching and British Rail cuts of the 1960s and 1970s by identifying new schemes that unlock new housing or economic growth and offer good value for money.

The government is already planning to reopen the railway line from Oxford to Cambridge and our new development programme will identify new connections and lines that were closed to passengers by British Rail, as part of finding and funding future rail schemes which offer good value.

At the heart of the new strategy is a commitment to improve passenger experience across the network and take advantage of new technology to improve services. This includes major changes that will extend passenger rights – including compensation for passengers when trains are more than 15 minutes late. We are also supporting the introduction of a Rail Ombudsman to ensure all passengers are treated fairly”.

Chris Grayling Rejects Suggestion that a Brexit No Deal Would see Higher Food Prices

Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, has rejected suggestions that a no-deal Brexit would see a sharp rise in food prices. He said that in such circumstances the UK would become more self-sufficient and look for markets outside of the EU. His comments come after warnings of significant price increases if the UK can’t secure a favourable Brexit deal.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show he said:

“What it would mean would be that supermarkets bought more from home, that British farmers grew more and that they bought more from around the world”.

He added when asked about rising food prices:

“Of course that will mean bad news for continental farmers, and that’s why it won’t happen. Because it’s actually in their interest to reach a deal”.

Government to Assist in Returning 110,000 Passengers to the UK after Monarch Airlines Collapse

The Government has confirmed that it will be offering assistance to ensure that 110,000 passengers can be returned to the UK following the collapse of Monarch, the country’s fifth largest airline. The Government said that the project was the largest peacetime repatriation of citizens in history but that it would work with ATOL to ensure a minimum of inconvenience is caused.

Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, said:

“This is a hugely distressing situation for British holidaymakers abroad – and my first priority is to help them get back to the UK.

That is why I have immediately ordered the country’s biggest ever peacetime repatriation to fly about 110,000 passengers who could otherwise have been left stranded abroad.

This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented situation. Together with the CAA, we will work around the clock to ensure Monarch passengers get the support they need.

Nobody should underestimate the size of the challenge, so I ask passengers to be patient and act on the advice given by the CAA”.

Chris Grayling Confirms that Freedom of Movement will end in the UK in 2019

Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, has confirmed that freedom of movement will end after the UK leaves the European Union. He also confirmed that the Government will consider paying money to the EU during a transitional period after 2019.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Grayling said:

“We have said all the way through that we are a nation that meets its obligations, that’s right and proper. We should always be a nation that meets its obligations, and that’s something she is going to say again today”.

The Prime Minister is making a speech in Florence later today which will set out the Government’s vision for a post-Brexit UK. It is thought that few EU leaders will be present at the speech, but it is expected that the Government will confirm  it will make a payment to settle liabilities.

Government Confirms Large Investment into West Midlands Rail Network

Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, has confirmed that there will be a large investment of nearly £1 billion in the West Midlands rail network. The details have been announced following the agreement that West Midlands Trains Ltd will operate the franchise from December 2017 until March 2026.

There will be 400 new carriages introduced onto the network by 2021, along with an increase in passenger capacity of 85,000. There will also be free wi-fi for all passengers on main-line services from 2019 and compensation for services delayed by at least 15 minutes.

Grayling said in a statement:

“This is great news for passengers using West Midlands services – with new trains, more space, more regular services and easier access for disabled people.

We are improving the whole travelling experience with live train crowding information, compensation for people delayed by 15 minutes or more, smart ticketing and better value tickets for part-time workers.

This shows we are delivering on our commitment to build a railway that works for everyone”.

Mayor of London and Transport Secretary Issue Joint Statement on Crossrail 2

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, have issued a joint statement over the future of Crossrail 2. Construction work is projected to start in 2023 with an opening in around 2032.

Grayling said in a statement:

“I am a supporter of Crossrail 2 but given its price tag we have to ensure that we get this right. The Mayor and I have agreed to work together on it over the coming months to develop plans that are as strong as possible, so that the public gets an affordable scheme that is fair to the UK taxpayer. Following a successful outcome being reached I am keen to launch a fresh public consultation to help gather views to improve the scheme and clarify the position around the safeguarded route”.

Khan said in a statement:

“Crossrail 2 is essential for the future prosperity of London and the south-east, so I’m pleased that the Transport Secretary and I have reached an agreement to take this vital project forward. We will continue to work together to ensure the project is value for money and provides the maximum benefits for jobs and growth in the region over the coming decades. I look forward to moving to the next stage of consultation”.

Government Announces South Western Franchise Won by First MTR South Western Trains Limited

The Government has announced that the seven year rail franchise to operate the South Western rail franchise has been won by First MTR South Western Trains Limited. MTR, one of the partners behind the franchise, currently operate the Hong Kong metro system.

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, said:

“Following on from our announcement on the start of the South Eastern Franchise consultation, this deal is more great news for rail passengers.

First MTR South Western Trains Limited will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area, from Bristol and Exeter, to Southampton and Portsmouth, to Reading, Windsor and London.

We are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century and this franchise will deliver real changes for passengers, who can look forward to modern trains, faster journeys and a more reliable service.

The new franchise holder is investing £1.2 billion into the network to improve services. The Government said that the following improvements would be implemented by the new franchise:

  • 22,000 extra seats into London Waterloo each morning peak and 30,000 extra seats out of Waterloo each evening peak
  • a fleet of 90 new trains, providing more space for passengers on Reading, Windsor and London routes
  • refurbished existing trains with charging sockets, new seat covers and refurbished toilets
  • more frequent and additional services across the franchise
  • faster journeys across the network; journeys to London will be:
    • 8 minutes faster from Southampton
    • 5 minutes faster from Portsmouth
    • 10 minutes faster from Reading
    • 12 minutes faster from Hounslow
    • 11 minutes faster from Salisbury
  • earlier first and later last trains, including between London and:
    • Twickenham
    • Hounslow
    • Windsor
    • Reading
    • Epsom
    • Guildford
    • Portsmouth
    • Salisbury
  • more Sunday services across the network, with many routes having the equivalent of a Saturday service after 1.00pm