Written by the MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Kent
This week, the Department of Transportation took decisive action to take control of the Southeast rail franchise.
This decision does not reflect the professionalism or dedication of Southeastern’s frontline staff, who have worked hard to continue to meet the needs of their customers during the pandemic.
In addition, this government decision will not negatively impact passenger services or ticket prices, nor will it affect the jobs of frontline staff.
The reason this decision was made is due to a breach of trust between the Department of Transport and Southeastern senior management.
In order to ensure that the rail industry was able to stem the worst of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector, the government provided an unprecedented level of support to the industry, trusting nearly 13 billion sterling of taxpayer money to secure continued passenger service and protect frontline jobs.
Given the level of support, it is essential that the Department can trust its partners. The South East Railways management had broken that trust by failing to report more than £ 25million in historic franchise payments due to be returned to the government.
This money has now been recovered, but it is possible that further investigations into other historical contractual issues may identify other amounts owed. It is essential that the public have confidence in the operators, who must work tirelessly for the interests of passengers and taxpayers.
As the government manages the railway as an operator of last resort, special attention should be paid to the future of railways in the South East region.
In particular, I think we should look at the model used in London, where private contractors work for a single public authority, like Transport for London, which oversees the routes and the services provided.
Over the past week, most drivers have been affected by gasoline and diesel shortages at local gas stations.
It is inevitable that whenever there are concerns about the level of supply, the first instinct of motorists is to refuel their vehicle to ensure they have the fuel they need for the trips. necessary that they know they must do.
This, of course, puts additional pressure on supplies.
To alleviate this pressure, the government decided to call in the armed forces to help support the delivery of supplies to gas stations and to allow operating companies to work together to target deliveries where they are needed most.
The Home Office has also agreed to grant more temporary visas so that more truck drivers from outside the UK can come here to fill vacant positions in delivery companies.
These measures appear to have a positive impact and the pressure on the gasoline and diesel supply is now easing. We need to do everything we can to ensure that deliveries continue to arrive where they are needed.