Grant Shapps in Pledge to Improve North-East Rail Network

Grant Shapps has visited the north-east of England to examine progress being made at the new Horden Peterlee railway station. He also pledged more money for the region’s rail network and pledged to examine reopening lines closed following the Beeching report.

Shapps said in a statement:

“2020 will be a year of action on the railways with the north sitting at the heart of the improvements.

Investing in new stations like Horden Peterlee will deliver more modern, reliable services for passengers. We are also ambitious to restore connections to communities who have lost out, and the Northumberland line has huge potential to deliver that.

Our focus is levelling up infrastructure across the country, ensuring passengers see the benefit of new trains, new stations and fairer fares.”

Government May Scrap HS2 Project

The Government has said that it may scrap HS2 despite over £7 billion having already been spent on the new high-speed rail line. Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, said that the project would be reviewed and a decision made on whether it would continue.

Shapps said in an interview:

“We are launching the review as we genuinely want to know what it would cost to complete this project. Then we will know and we will be in a much better position to make the decision to go or no go by the end of the year.”

Lord Adonis, the former Transport Secretary, who has called for increased spending on the rail infrastructure, posted on Twitter:

“HS2 review is about as stupid as you can get & screws Birmingham & the North. Classic Johnson. It throws project into flux & will cause big delays, loss of confidence & cost increases. But HS2 will almost certainly continue afterwards in modified form. What a shambles.

Membership of the review is about evenly divided between supporters & opponents of HS2, who will now engage in a massive bun fight while the Transport Department runs for cover & HS2 Ltd is paralysed by indecision.

Designing an infrastructure project by committee is always bad, but redesigning by committee of contrarians is reckless & irresponsible. This is Cummings-style Maoist mayhem to appease a handful of Tory backbenchers.

So much for Johnson’s commitment to infrastructure and the North! The first thing he does is to delay and possibly undermine the first strategic investment in the north in decades.”

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”.

Government to Announce £300 million for northern transport projects

Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is to announce £300 million to improve rail links in the north of England. The announcement is expected to be made at the Conservative Party conference which starts today in Manchester. There will also be £100 million spent on new road projects, although this will come from existing budgets.

 

Chris Williamson Suggests Female-Only Train Carriages

Chris Williamson, the Labour MP for Derby North, has proposed the idea of train carriages only for women. The idea has though been rejected by a number of other Labour MPs and also by equality groups. Williamson said that “female only carriages is an idea worth exploring” although he said that he added that he wasn’t necessarily calling for them to be introduced, just for there to be a debate.

Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, posted on Twitter:

“My hot take on women’s only carriages. Absolutely terrible idea. It is essentially giving up on trying to prosecute assaults”.

The campaigning group End Violence Against Women said:

“What happens when a woman doesn’t opt to use a segregated carriage – is she somehow to blame if she is then attacked?”

A spokesman for ASLEF, the rail union, also rejected the idea and said that “every space on the train should be safe”.

George Osborne Urges Government to Fund HS3 for Northern England

George Osborne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, has urged the Government to fund an HS3 rail system to help boost the northern economy. Osborne, who has now left Parliament and is the editor of the Evening Standard, said that the investment would help to “transform the northern economy”.

Osborne said in the article for the Financial Times:

“Far be it from me to offer advice to the Prime Minister on how to relaunch her premiership this autumn, but making this big commitment to the north at the Conservative conference in Manchester would not be a bad place to start”.

The proposed HS3 link would potentially connect Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull, with some preparatory work having already taken place to look at the viability of the project.

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”.

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

Chris Grayling, the new Transport Secretary, criticised over inaction on train strikes

chrisgrayling

Chris Grayling, the new Secretary of State for Transport, has been criticised for not making an obvious intervention in the rail dispute between Southern Railways and the RMT.

The Brighton Argus newspaper published a blank page other than for the following message:

“Apology to our readers.

It had been our intention to use this page to carry the Government’s response to next week’s all-out train strike.

We had cleared the page for the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to give the tens of thousands of rail users details of the actions he will take to relieve their daily misery.

We hoped to be able to bring you news that the Government was taking our plight seriously, that it understood the serious concerns for the economy of Sussex and that it was working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring about an end to the appalling train service we are currently experiencing.

We were preparing space for explanations about how long he will give Southern Rail to sort out the mess. In truth we were hoping for anything from the Government to show it actually cared about our plight.

We regret to announce that due to circumstances beyond our control we are unable to offer you this service.

Those of you who use the trains regularly will be familiar with the feeling”.

Paul Maynard, the Rail Minister, had earlier said:

“This strike action from the RMT will do nothing other than cause yet more disruption and daily misery for passengers. It is deeply disappointing that the union bosses continue to overlook the impact they are having on the travelling public, and I strongly condemn this proposed action”.

RMT and Southern Rail Criticised Over 5-Day Rail Strike

The RMT union and Southern Rail have both been criticised for a five-day strike which is resulting in a reduced service across the operator’s network.

Mick Cash, the General Secretary of the RMT, said:

“The strike action this morning is rock solid across the Southern rail network as we fight to put rail safety before the profits of the failed Govia Thameslink operation.

This action has been forced on us by the arrogance and inaction of Govia Thameslink and the government, who have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute or in tackling the daily chaos on Southern”.

Southern issued a statement saying that:

“Staff are not being taken off trains, there will be as many staff as there are today to support customers”.

On safety Southern said:

“The independent Rail Safety & Standards Board have said that driver-only-operation (DOO) offers ‘no increased risk’ compared to train operation with a conductor closing the doors. RSSB added that DOO could, in fact, ‘potentially deliver some safety benefits’, due to the removal of the risk of miscommunication between driver and guard”.