|Sir George speaks out on the railways
16 Jan 2002
Speaking on transport in the House of Commons for the first time since 1997, Sir George defended his actions as Transport Secretary in the last Conservative Government.
"I am genuinely concerned that privatisation is simply being blamed for everything that is going wrong with the railways to-day; but if take that simplistic view, we won't get out of the current difficulties. That is why I spoke out in the House."
Today's problems on the railways cause considerable difficulties for North West Hampshire constituents - particularly the recent industrial action; they have not been helped in any way by the present Government's ill-consdiered action in bringing down Railtrack, with no clear plan as to what would happen next. When challenged about this, Ministers' stock reaction is to blame privatisation. Sir George pointed out that there was - and still is - no other way than private sector involvement to bring the massive investment needed by the railways. In a detailed refutation of many of the claims made by detractors of privatisation, he cited the immense progress made in increasing the number of passengers and the number of train services, introducing new rolling stock and improving stations. Sir George concluded by remarking that there is a lot of common ground about what needs to be done next to deliver fully effective train services, but that it has become increasingly clear that the present Secretary of State is not the man for the job:
"What happens next? Let us look to the areas of agreement across the Floor. I accept, as do the Government, that there should be unified ownership of the railway network--the bits that do not move--and that the company that owns it, the son of Railtrack, should look to the private sector for the capital that is needed to modernise it. That should be off the Government's balance sheet. I have no difficulty with special purpose vehicles, which are a new form of financial rolling stock.
The full text of Sir George's speech is online at this site, click here, and in Hansard - click on the url below.