House of Commons says it has confidence in Chris Grayling over his handling of rail fiasco
MPs have backed Chris Grayling after Labour forced a vote of confidence in the Transport Secretary over his handling of the recent railways fiasco.
Commuters across England have been hit by hundreds of delayed and cancelled trains following the botched introduction of new rail timetables.
But following a Commons debate, MPs rallied around the minister by voting 305 to 285 against Labour’s motion calling on him to stand aside.
Speaking in the chamber ahead of the vote, Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said: "I regret having to table this motion but given the totally unacceptable state of the railway, I felt I had a duty to passengers.
"The latest chaos follows meltdown on the East Coast, resulting in a £2bn bailout and huge cuts to promised electrification in Wales, the north of England and the Midlands. This is not shaping up to be a distinguished legacy."
He added: “I’m afraid the breach of faith and trust is so great that the Secretary of State’s credibility will never recover.
"There comes a point where the publicly accountable politician in charge of the railway should step up and shoulder the blame, it seems to me and I suspect many railway users, that we have more than reached that point.”
A number of opposition MPs, particularly those with seats in the north of England, vented their anger in the chamber on behalf of constituents.
Batley and Spen MP Tracey Brabin said a commuter complained to her that cancellations and delays meant “passengers were crammed into a limited number of carriages like sardines”.
Meanwhile, Hull North MP Diana Johnson said Mr Grayling had managed to “unite both sides of the Pennines” after a number of regional newspapers in Lancashire and Yorkshire mounted front page calls for him to go.
The Transport Secretary apologised once more for the “totally unsatisfactory levels of service” and said staff were “working around the clock” to fix the timetable.
He added that the department had met owners of franchises, that an independent inquiry would be undertaken by the rail regulator and that ministers would “rule nothing out” in terms of future franchising arrangements.
“Clearly nobody wants us to be in the position we find ourselves in today. Let me be absolutely clear, everyone in my department is as focused as we possibly can be on improving reliability for passengers,” he said.