UK Politics

Thank goodness Grayling is not in charge of no deal Brexit transport planning…

BY Gavin Rice   /  20 September 2018

Oh wait, Chris Grayling is in charge of the government’s contingency plans on transport for a no deal Brexit scenario.

This is the same Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, who has refused to resign after a damning report by the Office of Road and Rail (ORR), released today, shone light on a shocking merry-go-round of incompetence that saw misery on Britain’s railways throughout the summer.

Declining to take responsibility for the embarrassing indictment by the regulator, Chris Grayling blamed the fiasco on “the system”. When asked if he thought it was cause enough to go, the Brexiteer minister insisted: “My job, in my view, is to get this sorted.” Well, quite. But given the ORR’s conclusion that Grayling credulously took reassurances by rail bosses at face value, the Transport Secretary’s newfound desire to be on the ball is far from encouraging.

When questioned on the findings, Grayling sought to acquit himself by insisting that it’s “tough for any politicians to overrule the advice of professionals”, seeking to pin the blame on the over-optimism of the rail companies.

However, while the report is scathing about industrial incompetence within GTR, Northern and Southern Railways, it also hits out at the DfT for its readiness to believe whatever the franchises said.

For all the Transport Secretary’s equivocation, he is left looking back on the humiliation of timetabling chaos over the summer, including over 10,000 delays or cancellations across a range of networks, the emergency renationalisation of the East Coast mainline, and the complete closure of Euston – one of the busiest stations in the country – for three days, receiving a roasting from Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald in the Commons and calls for nationalisation by the Labour Party. The Editor of industry magazine Rail described the chaos as the worst he had seen in 40 years.

Forced to face up to the maelstrom of hugely disruptive industrial action, sheer administrative uselessness and hopelessly unrealistic plans for wholesale timetabling changes, Grayling has admitted that the rail system is “no longer fit to meet today’s challenges.”

With Brexit alarmists warning of 30-mile lorry queues at Dover and an infrastructure nightmare at our airports in the event of No Deal next year, Britain is lucky to have such leadership at the transport helm. The markets must be hugely reassured. Gulp.


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