MP Eagle slams West Coast rail fiasco

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Maria Eagle - Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Maria Eagle – Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Merseyside MP Maria Eagle has branded the current West Coast rail route debacle as “a very costly mess” in an interview with JMU Journalism.

The outburst comes after Virgin Trains lost out on their bid to keep the West Coast Mainline route to rival firm FirstGroup only for the Government to announce a U-turn after flaws in the bidding process. The move, which sparked controversy, was then reversed earlier this month after widespread criticism from Virgin Rail boss Richard Branson.

The policy change led to a House of Commons debate last week, where Maria Eagle spoke regarding the incident, describing it as “a prime example of ministerial incompetence,” adding that the government was simply “pouring money down the drain”.

The Labour MP for Garston and Halewood strongly criticised the current Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin’s recent actions: “It’s a complete and all round mess, and it’s a very costly mess, which is going to cost the tax payer at least £40 million and probably a lot more,” she told JMU Journalism.

“It’s left the Department of Transport and the franchising policy in chaos and there’ll be a short term impact on the possibility of passengers getting the improvements that they have been promised.”

The Shadow cabinet member also drew speculation on Mr McLoughlin’s estimations of the costs to the taxpayers which have come out of the fiasco: “The huge amounts of costs going down the drain could have been used on improvements to stations, extra services and cutting rail fares. There have been some much higher estimates other than the one that’s been admitted in government and in newspapers about what the overall cost must be,” the Shadow Transport Secretary said.

When asked about the High Speed rail link (HS2) which is currently in its proposal stages, Eagle denied the possibility that Liverpool would be damaged by the benefits that other rival cities such as Manchester will receive from its development.

She told JMU Journalism: “It will speed up journey times to Liverpool from as soon as the first phase opens. We are going to have to keep vigilant though in regards to how timetables are drawn up so that it does not disadvantage Liverpool. The most important thing at the moment is getting it built,” said the MP.

Miss Eagle added that she was concerned about the rising travel costs for students in Liverpool. “We are looking at what’s possible, but the money that the government send to local transport authorities has been cut by 28% on average which has an impact,” she said.

About Calum Metcalfe, JMU Journalism