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Grant Shapps’s weasel words over P&O hid another breaking scandal

Grant Shapps on Good Morning Britain as the DfT gives failing GTR another rail contract

Grant Shapps declared on breakfast TV that the boss of P&O Ferries should quit over the company’s law-breaking firing of 800 workers. His weasel words were a bit rich, considering his predecessor changed the law that let P&O sack the workers in the first place.

But while the transport secretary acted tough over the P&O scandal, he was also at the centre of another one. Because the Department for Transport (DfT) has just bunged millions in public money to another notorious company. It’s handed Govia Thameslink Railways (GTR) a renewed rail franchise after fining it £23.5m just days ago.

Rail chaos

GTR has consistently been at the centre of various storms over its running of rail services. From years of mismanagement of Southern Rail, to the DfT stripping it of the Southeastern franchise in 2021, GTR has repeatedly failed to deliver well-run rail services. For example, as the Association of British Commuters (ABC) wrote:

GTR was responsible for the ‘Southern Rail Crisis’ cancelling 7.7% of planned services between 2015 and 2017 (compared to a network-wide average of 2.8%).

In 2019, the government fined GTR £5m for its implementing of a chaotic new timetable on its Thameslink and Great Northern services. Then, in October 2021 the DfT took the Southeastern franchise back into public control. As The Canary reported, this was because GTR failed to declare more than £25m of taxpayer funding – money it should have given back to the public purse.

Not that any of this really seems to concern the DfT.

GTR: Taking with one hand, getting it back with the other

PA reported that the DfT has said GTR will continue to run Thameslink for the next three years. The deal will hand GTR a management fee (public money) of £8.8m per year to deliver the service. Plus GTR could earn an extra £22.9m (of public money), which is linked to performance. But the news comes a week after the government fined GTR £23.5m over the Southeastern £25m missing tax payer cash scandal.

Read on...

Always ones to put their fingers in their ears, the government’s rail minister Wendy Morton told PA:

As the UK’s largest rail operator, I know GTR will play a key role helping the Government continue delivering our Plan for Rail and revolutionise the lives of passengers… we are proud to partner with GTR to create a truly passenger-focused service.

But effectively, all the DfT has done is cancel-out the £23.5m fine it handed GTR. Because by extending the Thameslink contract, the company can just earn the value of the fine back again. Oh, and once more it’s from public money.

“Delighted” that we’ve been let off the hook again

Of course, the news delighted GTR parent company Go Ahead’s boss. He told PA:

I’m delighted with today’s announcement. Under this new contract we will build on our achievements in enhancing performance in recent years…

GTR: “the biggest rail corruption scandal since privatisation”

But the ABC was furious. Its co-founder Emily Yates told Inside Croydon:

Outrageously, the government is planning to let their favourite – and most failing – rail company off the hook once again.

Yates called it:

the biggest rail corruption scandal since privatisation.

And she noted that:

Every ‘penalty’ [fine] reported in the press has in fact been a remedial measure to be reinvested into this chronically failing franchise.

A “revolution”. Just not the kind you’re thinking of…

DfT claims about ‘reform’ of the rail network now appear even more preposterous. It says under its Plan for Rail that it wants to carry out:

a revolution on the railways… to support the levelling up of our towns, cities and regions.

The DfT’s idea of a “revolution” is to keep the same failing private companies running our disastrous rail network, So much like the government’s levelling up agenda and Shapp’s calls for the P&O boss to quit – the DfT’s vision for rail is little more than corporate profit dressed up as public good.

Featured image via Good Morning Britain – YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. Grant Shapps’s weasel words over P&O hid another breaking scandal-WELL-WELL -VOTERS.
      Grant Shapps declared on breakfast TV that the boss of P&O Ferries should quit over the company’s law-breaking firing of 800 workers. His weasel words were a bit rich, considering his predecessor changed the law that let P&O sack the workers in the first place.
      LETS have the truth Grant did you & Boris already know before hand of sackings (P&O told you Tory Minister?)

      Voter Not another lying Tory party members like their leader Boris only thing now Tory party Minister have in common now is they all lie to us voters Boris must have schooled them all well.
      Every job in Govt Grant Shapps has held has turned to C**p also he like misleading the public as well as H.O. Com parties.
      So, Grant did you already know about the sacking yes or no? tell us voter plus the P&O workers the full truth SIR.
      So, from me reading this article you will not be taking P&C to court them??(why maybe voters it what I put below reason.)
      Because if you do Grant your knowing beforehand will come out in court and the Tory party will be tagged with your lies as well as Boris, On did Tory party Minister under Boris rule already know of P&O Planed sacking braking rules and Tory Govt let them do this just to us the out as a political tool to voter yet the people are still out of work Boris + Grant the Bribe P&O Offered is unacceptable Tory Gvot members you cannot bribe all the U.K.WORKERS that have the same thing done to them in the future.
      You Tory party members better sort this mess out before next G.E. time as the British people (voter) have had all they can take of Tory lies betrayal and useless lying Minister under lying Boris now.
      Tory party M.P.+ Minister do you not all understand under lying Boris is dragging this country plus your party down the toilet now you will all be out of power next G.E. for protecting his backside while we voter suffer under an incompetent lying Boris rule.

    2. Fascinating tale about rail franchises. Bit of trivia: utter genius to appoint as rail minister an MP whose constituency doesn’t contain a passenger station – Wendy “Morticia” Morton of Aldridge-Brownhills.

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