Greening's 'Ronseal' rail plan
The Government is taking a "Ronseal approach" to railway reform, according to the Transport Secretary.
Delivering a command statement on the future of the rail industry, Justine Greening told the Commons this afternoon that efficiency savings would create an "efficient, effective and affordable" system in the interests of passengers and taxpayers.
The Government is calling on train companies and Network Rail to close a £3.5bn annual "efficiency gap" identified by rail expert Sir Roy McNulty, whose consultation was commissioned by the last Labour government.
Ms Greening said: "I’ve taken the Ronseal approach – this strategy will do what it says on the tin, put the customer first."
She also offered a challenge to train companies, saying they can only compete for future contracts if "cost issues are addressed".
Ms Greening emphasised the cost of not acting now. "If we duck the reform challenge then it won't just be rail users and the public purse that pays the price, the rail industry and the wider economy will suffer too."
Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle was scathing in response, saying the reforms would allow train companies to "hike fares, cut services, booking offices and frontline staff".
She said there were "deep alliances" between train companies and Network Rail and warned of an increasingly "fragmented" system with private companies managing different sections of the network.
RMT union boss Bob Crow promised industrial action if the Government goes ahead with cuts to rail staff.
He told Sky News: "We don’t believe that at a time when there’s more people using the railways, than they have done for the last 80 years, there’s a necessity to cut back on staffing. Our line in the sand is pretty simple – we’re not going to accept cuts to our members’ terms and conditions and if they try to make anybody compulsorily redundant on the railways we will ballot for strike action."