Guest Column: Government must put passengers before profit on our railways

John Mann MP
John Mann MP

Last week in Parliament, we saw the farcical announcement by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP that Virgin’s contract to run the East Coast Mainline franchise has been abandoned two years before it was due to end.

The Government has messed around with the franchise for years.

The facts are simple.

The railway, when it was publicly owned, was successful and made a profit for the taxpayer.

The Government changed this when it sold off the franchise to Virgin which resulted in a bailout last November and the complete abandonment last week.

One can only hope that lessons are learned and the Government stops its tinkering and playing around with a railway — which so many Bassetlaw residents rely on — and put passengers first on the East Coast Mainline.

I will continue to work with others inside and outside of Parliament to ensure Bassetlaw rail passengers have the best service, defined as cheaper, reliable and with a better timetable and improved station facilities.

I have been meeting this week with Bassetlaw residents who have concerns about the progress of fracking in the district.

This was highly constructive and I will continue to do this in the future.

No matter what your views are on fracking, the decisions made about this very important issue should be taken locally with proper account taken of resident views and interests.

That’s why the Government’s changes to the national planning policy framework dismay me.

I feel the Government is seeking to take power away from local residents in order to use this to bring fracking into areas where local residents are completely opposed to it.

I will continue to emphasise that local residents must have the power to influence planning in their communities and not allow fracking companies to have a free reign to override residents’ very real concerns.

This removal of local democracy from the process is a frightening move towards a ‘Government knows best’ system of controlling an area.