Rail minister resigns after telling MPs quitting would not improve Southern services

Rail minister Claire Perry during a Westminster Hall debate on the performance of Govia Thameslink Railway (photo from parliament.tv) SUS-160714-112551001
Rail minister Claire Perry during a Westminster Hall debate on the performance of Govia Thameslink Railway (photo from parliament.tv) SUS-160714-112551001

Rail minister Claire Perry has reportedly resigned just days after telling Sussex MPs her ‘falling on her sword’ would not solve the problems with Southern services.

Govia Thamesink Railway (GTR), which runs services across the county, has been locked in a bitter dispute with the RMT union over the future role of conductors for months, with staff shortages leading to constant delays and cancellations.

The Government has faced repeated calls to strip GTR of its franchise, and MPs from across Sussex labelled Southern services a ‘national disgrace’ during a debate in Parliament on Wednesday (July 13).

During that debate Ms Perry said: “If I thought it would help by me falling on my sword, I would. I have thought about it repeatedly. I do not like failure. I do not fail at stuff in my life. This feels like a failure.”

Just hours later Theresa May succeeded David Cameron as Prime Minister, and she appointed Chris Grayling as the new transport secretary on Thursday, replacing Patrick McLoughlin, who becomes chairman of the Conservative Party.

A successor to Ms Perry has not yet been announced, who reportedly resigned on Thursday night.

On Wednesday Tim Loughton, East Worthing and Shoreham MP, argued that if problems were not sorted by the beginning of September, then GTR should lose its franchise by the end of 2016.

During the debate, Ms Perry explained that the contractual levers in the management contract are ‘really poor’ and given all of the problems experienced by GTR it is not currently in breach of its franchise contract.

Passengers have suffered months of delays and cancellations due to staff shortages, as GTR and the RMT union have been locked in a bitter dispute over the future role of conductors, with both sides blaming each other for the crisis.

Mr Loughton said: “She [Ms Perry] said that the company was not in breach. When on earth will it technically be in breach? We need to know that.”

He added: “This is embarrassing, pathetic, unsustainable and a national disgrace for Britain’s largest rail passenger carrier.

“The management, the unions and, frankly, the Department for Transport should all be thoroughly ashamed that we are in this state of affairs.”

This paper has launched a campaign calling on GTR to be stripped of its franchise and the introduction of a revised temporary weekday timetable on Monday (July 11), cancelling 341 trains a day, caused fury in areas that have been affected.

The service between Seaford and Lewes has been one of those most affected by the timetable changes, with a replacement bus operating for most of the day instead.

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, who represents the area, has signed an Early Day Motion urging the Government to strip GTR of its franchise, which also includes Thameslink and Gatwick Express services.

Southern has now made further amendments to the timetable, which will see the reinstatement of some services, and these are due to come into effect on Monday (July 18).

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