I would like to thank the 127 of my Parliamentary colleagues who backed my Private Member’s Bill to protect people’s right to get to work on strike days. This is a huge number of MPs to support a Private Member’s Bill and it just goes to show how important it is to Members of Parliament and their constituents that we finally resolve problems facing Southern Rail.
Had it passed then this Bill would have put a stop to unions striking over issues like whether it’s the driver or the guard who opens or closes the doors. It would have meant that for every future strike on the trains or on the London Underground there would have to be some level of service so that people are able to get to work. This Bill would not only have put a stop to the strikes that have been causing misery to commuters for months, it would have prevented the level of chaos caused by the RMT’s on-going tube strikes and would have prevented similar strikes from happening in the future.
Unfortunately, the Labour Party ordered its MPs to side with the union bosses instead of their constituents. Because members of the Government cannot vote, and because of the whipped vote against the Bill, it was defeated.
The unions are not the only problem facing Southern Rail. Since May I have been calling for GTR, the franchise operator, to be stripped of the contract and for the service within the M25 to be handed to TFL – I stand by this and want to see this happen with immediate effect. There is also an urgent need for infrastructure improvements on the line, which would be necessary regardless of who runs the service. The Government has responded to mine and my colleague’s call for the investment of £300 million into infrastructure, mainly targeted at lines that run Southern Rail, and I welcome this move as an excellent step forward.
You can watch my speech to the House of Commons here.
I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that the Southern Rail service is returned to an acceptable level.