Grayling gets flak from all directions for rail U-turn

The decision of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to veto plans to hand control of South Eastern suburban rail services to Transport for London has provoked outrage from all political parties.

Alexander – treatment of commuters appalling

Lewisham East Labour MP Heidi Alexander told Leegreen.london that “I think the way the Government have treated SouthEastern commuters is absolutely appalling. One minute they are all for devolving the franchising responsibility to TfL and they then are against it.

“The main thing that changed in the intervening period was that Zac Goldsmith didn’t become Mayor. Just because we don’t have the tube in our part of London, doesn’t mean that Government Ministers can treat us with such disdain.

“Chris Grayling has only been in the job a matter of months and he already has his own colleagues calling for his resignation. He needs to think again on this one.”

Bromley and Chiselhurst Tory MP Bob Neill was equally scathing:

“This is a cynical, party political move that has failed to act in the interests of London commuters. It is clear that the current Secretary of State has a dogmatic opposition to rail devolution, and by insisting that this is based on concerns about the financial feasibility of the proposals, I would suggest he has misled the House.

“Passengers deserve better than to be caught up in this type of political chicanery. I, and many of my colleagues, campaigned during the last mayoral election for greater rail devolution. It is regrettable that I have been forced to adopt this stance and call for the Secretary of State’s resignation, but I will not sway from that commitment we made, nor will I allow long suffering passengers in my constituency to be used as political pawns.”

Outrage was deepened when in a leaked letter responding to a request from the then London Mayor Boris Johnson to support handing control of rail services to TfL Grayling wrote that “I would like to keep suburban rail services out of the clutches of any future Labour mayor . . . I’m afraid we will have to agree to disagree over this one.” Opposition to the decision has come from councils both in and outside London and from across the political spectrum. The deal agreed by Boris Johnson with the government in January would have enabled the mayor to gain control of Southeastern, South West, Southern and Great Northern trains when the respective franchise contracts expired.

Condemning Grayling’s veto London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that “TfL have proven that when they take control of rail lines like London Overground, passengers get more frequent trains, fewer cancellations and delays, more staff at stations and more affordable fares. The government was putting forward a much weaker proposal that will have none of those benefits for passengers, businesses and communities”.

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