Bim Afolami: Why I back Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami. Picture: Danny Loo

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Amid the chaos on the railways, Conservative MPs yesterday rejected a vote of no confidence in Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. In an exclusive opinion piece, Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami explains why he voted as he did.

The last few weeks of the new timetables imposed by Govia Thameslink have been chaotic, and not fit for purpose. I have spent many months lobbying for a better deal for Hitchin and Harpenden, as it was clear from the outset that these changes were never going to work.

From my meetings with Govia Thameslink and Network Rail, it is clear that the most significant issue causing these problems was the lack of trained drivers for the correct routes, through the London core and beyond to the rest of the UK. While this is entirely unacceptable, and should never have happened in the first place, at least Govia have explained why they caused the problems we have seen.

In my efforts to stop these changes coming in, which were unfortunately unsuccessful, and now my lobbying to get an immediate fix for both the Hitchin and Harpenden lines, I have used every avenue available to me as your MP. I have asked questions in parliament to the Prime Minister, Transport Secretary, and Rail Minister, as well as holding a debate in parliament.

I have been in frequent contact with the Transport Secretary and Rail Minister, as well as meeting with them several times. I have also met with the chairman, chief executive and route managing director of Network Rail, as well as the chief executive and route managing director of Govia Thameslink.

I am also in the process of presenting a bill to parliament, with significant cross-party support, that would bring in new laws to ensure real compensation for rail passengers based on a commuter contract.

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, has confirmed that he will work with Govia Thameslink and Network Rail to improve the situation for both Hitchin and Harpenden when the proposed new timetable is fully implemented. This will mean more capacity and increased frequency of trains at peak times.

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At this point, it would not be helpful to call for Chris Grayling to stand down, as it will not fix the situation in any way. I need to continue to work with him over the coming weeks to make sure he lives up to his promises. The Labour Party’s decision to force a vote of no confidence in Mr Grayling was nothing more than a political stunt. It is not binding – and while it may make people some feel better, it will not make the blindest bit of difference in fixing our problems. That is why I voted against the motion.

As your MP, I am continuing to fight every day for an immediate fix to this problem, as well as ensuring in the long term there are train services fit for use. I have been focusing on this every day for many months, and will not stop doing so until I get a solution.

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