Today in the Transport Select Committee, under pressure from Plymouth MP Luke Pollard, the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, confirmed that his department will not split the GWR franchise as previously planned.
Luke Pollard MP has previously raised concerns about splitting up the GWR franchise when the consultation was originally announced by Ministers. The Plymouth Labour MP said that that splitting the GWR rail franchise was the wrong priority saying Ministers should instead focus on the long overdue investment in the south west’s railway.
In response to questioning on splitting the franchise by Luke in front of the Transport Select Committee today, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP said:
“I can’t remember what date we are publishing the outcome but I will give the committee a sneak preview. The general view is that we shouldn’t and therefore we won’t. It was a genuine open question and people suggested it might be a good idea to give the South West its own franchise. The general sense is that it is not and so we are not going to.”
Luke Pollard MP said:
“No one in the far south west wanted cuts to our trains and the franchises that serve our region. When the priority is making our train line resilient, faster and with greater capacity, splitting the franchise was the wrong priority. I have repeatedly voiced concerns about this plan by the Transport Secretary and I am pleased to see under that the region’s lobbying has paid off and this unwanted plan has been ditched.
“There was no appetite in the region for splitting the GWR rail franchise and I am grateful to the Transport Secretary for listening to the far South West today. Wat we need is proper investment not fiddling with the boundaries of the rail franchise set up. After a year of bad decisions on rail in the far south west, I now want to see Ministers focus on making our rail line resilient, and improving journey times by matching Labour’s pledge of £2.5 billion to fund all immediate recommendations of the Peninsular Rail Taskforce Report.”
In further questioning from Luke, the Transport Secretary was also challenged about calling the far south an “extremity” in the recent Cross Country trains consultation document. Mr Grayling noted that he doesn’t want to see any cuts in trains in the far south west, and when pushed about the number of Cross Country trains, said that he would not be cutting the number of Cross Country trains.