The following is a press release issued by Campaign for Rail
PLANS TO DEVOLVE the specification and management of rail services in the West Midlands to a consortium of local authorities have been shunted into the sidings by Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling. Rail campaigners have described the move as “a politically motivated betrayal” and said this shows Mr. Grayling to be “out of touch with rail passengers in the Midlands”.
The revelation is contained in the latest edition of the journal “Modern Railways”. This states that Mr. Grayling has ruled out “full devolution” and references to this in the collaboration agreement between the DfT and West Midlands Rail have been removed. Instead, the document states the parties will meet on an “annual basis to discuss progress”.
Mr. Grayling blocked the devolution of the commuter routes operated by SouthEastern to the London Mayor last December. It subsequently emerged that Mr. Grayling had written a letter to the former London Mayor Boris Johnson opposing rail devolution in 2013, for fear a Labour Mayor would gain control of transport links. This led to fury from a senior Conservative backbencher Bob Neill who said Mr. Grayling should step down.
8 February 2017
Rail Devolution Hits the Buffers
Ian Jenkins from Campaign for Rail said “We can only conclude that yet again Mr. Grayling is putting party political dogma before the interests of rail passengers. Commuters are frankly fed up with the service offered by the current franchisee. Devolution would ensure the rail operator is more accountable to the people it served. The current arrangement does not work and the Department for Transport in Whitehall do not have a clue what is going on here.
“If Mr. Grayling has blocked the proposal for fear that voters will elect a Labour Mayor, that is pathetic. There is support for the devolution scheme across the political spectrum in the region and the Conservative leaders of Staffordshire County Council, Warwickshire County Council and Worcestershire County Council support it, as does the Conservative Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority. The devolution would be across the region, not just in the Metropolitan area.
“Devolution has delivered better rail services and better value for taxpayers elsewhere.
“We think that Mr. Grayling should consider the words of his colleague Bob Neill carefully and his position.”