As the train chaos continues, it is surely time for those in a position to change the dynamic in the Southern franchise to be held personally accountable. The idea of accountability being a passive focus on an individual, but no more than a bit of mild criticism for their failure to address the problem is wrong in this setting. There are people who need to resign from from their jobs or be asked to leave, specifically
Peter Wilkinson Managing Director of Passenger Services at the Department for Transport who has spoken out about this chaos, and is on the record from a meeting on 18th February in Croydon: “Over the next three years we’re going to be having punch ups and we will see industrial action and I want your support,” Speaking about some of the outdated practices in the industry he said “I’m furious about it and it has got to change – we have got to break them…They have all borrowed money to buy cars and got credit cards. They can’t afford to spend too long on strike and I will push them into that place. They will have to decide if they want to give a good service or get the hell out of my industry.” Mr Wilkinson said train drivers are paid high salaries of about £60,000 a year which was an interesting perspective from someone who earns £260,000
Chris Grayling as Transport Minister who has been completely ineffectual throughout his time in post since July, and who served previously as shadow Transport Minister so did not come into the role without some knowledge of the brief. Grayling has claimed all sorts of things about the current situation which have subsequently been shown to be less than candid. He was a complete failure as Lord Chancellor and really needs to be returned to the back benches ASAP.
Then there is Govia Thameslink and its Chief Operating Officer who yesterday was the person to refuse entry to the RMT at the talks at ACAS. Nick Brown has only been in post since September, and the problem is not necessarily him as COO but the fact that GTR should have never been awarded the franchise on its current terms and are clearly a big part of the problem, because they are the employer in this terrible dispute.
Finally there are the Conservative MPs in the area covered by the franchise. Many of them are on the record for making criticisms of the rail workers, some have made rather mild criticisms of GTR, a few have been less than mild. Some have even criticised the Governments handling as well they should. However their public statements are meaningless unless they are prepared to demand change at the top (ie Grayling and Wilkinson) and a removal of the franchise from Nick Brown and his team. If all they can do is make statements about what they think should happen, then unless they decide to resign the whip, they need to take personal responsibility for the mess!
Of course the Unions are also culpable for the way they are acting, but unless the train service is being run properly by both Government and any private companies, any hope of this dispute being settled is like whistling in the wind.
I rarely add to blogs after they have been written, but on this occasion will do so. The MP for East Worthing, Tim Loughton took exception to what I had written and tweeted:
“Another armchair critic piling all the blame on MPs & train companies, leaving unions blameless & without any ideas of specific solutions”
It must be tough being an MP but Tim is not obliged to stand again! Equally he could do as his colleague in Kent has done and demand the resignation of Grayling.