Chris Grayling. Credit Chris McAndrew
Image credit: Chris McAndrew

Grayling blames travel chaos on Tories playing ‘catch up’

Jessica Middleton-Pugh at Conservative Party Conference

In his speech to the Conservative Party Conference today, transport minister Chris Grayling said he was sorry “so many rail passengers have had such a difficult time” as a result of Northern’s timetable change, blaming problems on the railway on under-investment by Labour when they were last in power eight years ago.

Grayling told the conference in Birmingham: “I have already apologised for the disruption caused by the failures in the introduction of the new timetable in May. It was unacceptable. And I want to say now again how sorry I am that so many passengers had such a difficult time.

“For us as Conservatives it was particularly frustrating, because the new timetable is part of a big investment programme in the railways, to deliver more trains and more seats for passengers in both the North and the South.

“The chaos cannot and will not be allowed to happen again. But it is clear that the system has greater challenges than a failed timetable introduction. In the last twenty years the railways have been through an extraordinary period of growth; the number of trains and passengers travelling has doubled, trains are packed, the network is creaking. Passengers experience too many things going wrong.

“Which is why today I can announce that we will introduce once click compensation for delays and disruption – making it easier for people to claim compensation.

“But I want the railways to work better for customers. As Conservatives in Government, we are spending more on rail than any Government in modern times. New trains. Upgraded tracks. New routes. Across the North, in the South and in the Midlands.

“But after a decade under Labour when things stood still, we have much ground to catch up. Do you know, they let a Northern Rail franchise with no new investment at all? Our response: We let a Northern Rail franchise which is replacing and refurbishing every single train.”

In response to criticism from Labour that the Conservative Party was ignoring the North, he told the conference “it was they who neglected it for so long, leaving us to play catch-up.”

The extensive disruption caused across the North by delays to Network Rail construction works, Northern’s emergency timetable, and delays to electrification of key routes has dominated headlines throughout the year. Grayling has been criticised for his lack of communication to council leaders and his attempts to shift blame for the mayhem away from central Government.

At the Conservative Party Conference over the next few days, while ministers such as Kit Malthouse for housing is appearing on numerous panels allowing opportunities for questions, Grayling is conspicuously absent from events.

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…has there ever been so much incompetence on such a large scale as with this current mob?

By Pineapple Chunx

I really don’t care whose fault it is – just sort it rather than blaming everyone else!

By Mark

Breath taking – blaming a party that hasn’t been in power for EIGHT YEARS for a botched timetable implementation.

By Peter

It’s just such a shame the Labour party left the country near bankrupt, if they’d not created such a huge mess maybe we would’ve invested a lot more by now.

By Robinson's

There is an element of truth in this. Labour under Blair and Brown totally abandoned the North re-Transport investment as this fiasco over lack of respect for 13 million of your own people is nothing new, can anyone remember John Prescott and his boast about integrated transport for all? I think that integration stopped at Potters Bar,but Mr Grayling! Two wrongs don’t make a right.Your Cheshire,or should that be Surrey cat grin is fooling nobody. If you were a surgeon nobody would want you near an operating theatre put it that way.

By Elephant

Speechless. How about doing something instead of blaming others!

By Tom

There’s no denying there was a problem but can anyone put into context the actual number of people inconvenienced compared to the number who can’t rely on getting from A to B on time using our motorways on a daily basis. Cancelling 160 trains a day means nothing unless they are all in the peak periods. Try working out what’s happening at Worsley, the Thelwall Viaduct or the M6 J19-16 where the anytime/daily hold-ups don’t get reported because its the norm.

By Mr Carr

And it’s taken eight years for the penny to drop? And Grayling refuses to give the new platforms at Piccadilly and Oxford Road the go ahead? The man’s cheek is monumental. He was no good as Justice Minister; he’s no better with Transport!

By Tony Heyes

8 years is a long time to have been playing catch-up with nothing to show for it and I don’t think you can compare the Labour Party under Blair/Brown to the current Labour Party.

A one-click compensation form is going to be of little comfort to people stressed up to the eye-balls, struggling to pay fare increases year after year and being reprimanded for repeatedly being late to work, missing meetings and getting home late to their families.

These ill-conceived comments will only further infuriate rail users who are left wondering what further catastrophic failures he has to preside over before finally being given the boot.

By NWPlanner

Both Red and Blue Governments have ignored transport spending for all regions other than London for a long time, its not just us.

However what is sickening is that Mr.Grayling is not looking to solve anything, just looking to absolve himself of blame. Please remember that this is the man who recently stated that he is not responsible for the running of the railways while being the Minister for Transport.

Not recent but worth a look: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/north-south-divide-transport-spending-government-theresa-may-chris-grayling-crossrail-london-a7177656.html

By Mis-Manager

The idea that 8 years is a particularly “long time” in terms of infrastructure investment is pretty naive at best.

In a magical world where funding is not a concern 8 years is nothing, planning, CPO’s, legals, tendering processes, more legals, implementation…these things take far longer than average people can understand.

By Anonymous

Interesting that the review into the summer’s chaos concluded that no one appeared to be in charge. What a damning inditement of the Department for Transport

By A Developer

I think transport, like most things, should be entrusted to folk who want to extract maximum value from it. If you want strangers to look after your grandparents in an old folks home, you make sure these strangers want to make maximum profit out of it. That is the only way you can ensure that your grandparents are cared for kindly. Or have I overlooked something?

By James Yates

By Robinson’s: Do you mean the former Labour government caused the Global Financial Crash and UK Banking System bankruptcy in 2008 by NOT investing in the UK railway infrastructure?

By James Yates

Mis-Management you are right but other parts of the country are not equal in size and population to the South East,we are,so the scale of neglect is more pronounced. No disrespect to people in other parts of Britain but getting people between kings Lynn and Norwich is not quite the same as between Manchester and Leeds.They have this view that the North is a tiny peninsular with a few fishing ports on it like Cornwall.Do these people know how many live within a 20 mile radius of Manchester? The North needs billions to sort out this problem.

By Elephant

Probably the worst transport secretary in living memory, accountability starts at the top. I know of no logical argument that links timetable disruption today with actions 8 years ago, but there is from running a fragmented system where its hard to manage change.

By Rich

James Yates, no I mean the Labour government left the country with an embarrassingly large debt and left the Tories with nothing. How can the government spend money that isn’t there?

By Robinson's

@ Robinson’s – the debt would have been even larger had the conservatives been in power at the time. They were arguing for even LESS regulation of the finacial sector which resulted in the global crash. None of this absolves either party from their neglect of the north in terms of under investment in our transport network over decades. The current works were announced int he dying days of the labour government and have been de-scoped and delayed by the current governement. Now Grayling is trying to fob us off with bi-mode trains – very much a sticking plaster for the much reduced scope of the northern hub scheme. He must think we’re idiots.

By A noun

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