Lord Adonis slams ‘stupid‘ Chris Grayling for ‘bailing out‘ Virgin Trains East Coast rail franchise
Former Labour Minister Andrew Adonis stepped up his one-man war on the Government last night by claiming that ‘stupid’ Transport Secretary Chris Grayling could be forced to quit for ‘bailing out’ a rail franchise.
Pro-EU campaigner Lord Adonis – who resigned as Government infrastructure tsar on Friday with a fierce attack on over – issued a fresh broadside against Mr Grayling for letting Virgin Trains East Coast walk away from an eight-year deal to run the loss-making railway until 2023, allowing them instead to propose a new deal for the last three years.
He said Mr Grayling’s decision could cost taxpayers billions and result in him being sacked from the Cabinet for wasting public funds.
Mr Grayling, who last night defiantly rejected the charges made against him by Lord Adonis, faces the prospect of an investigation into the franchise by the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee.
Lord Adonis said: ‘By his sheer stupidity, Chris Grayling has done more than Jeremy Corbyn and Karl Marx combined to advance the cause of renationalising the railways.
If, as seems certain, he lets Virgin Trains East Coast tear up its promise to pay the public purse £2 billion for the last three years of the contract, every private rail franchise in Britain will demand the same and the entire rail franchise system will collapse.
‘When private rail bosses come running to Ministers with a begging bowl, you have to be tough. Mr Grayling’s approach is “how big a cheque do you want?” It is scandalous.’
Lord Adonis said Mr Grayling should have ‘called the bluff’ of Virgin Trains East Coast and renationalised it.
Lord Adonis said Mr Grayling should have ‘called the bluff’ of Virgin Trains East Coast – which is jointly owned by Brian Souter’s Stagecoach and Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains – and renationalised it.
The peer said that he had done this in 2009, when he was Labour Transport Minister, in relation to National Express – and then banned the company from bidding for other rail services.
A source close to Mr Grayling said: ‘It is very disappointing that, with all his experience, Lord Adonis is making claims without any knowledge of the facts.’
The dispute is part of a bitter ‘dirty tricks’ row over Lord Adonis’s resignation as head of the National Infrastructure Commission.
The peer has claimed the Government threatened to stop co-operating with him because of his attempt to expose the East Coast ‘fiasco’.
He also accused ‘petty’ Downing Street of leaking his resignation. Lord Adonis yesterday claimed Mrs May’s ‘Ukip-style’ Brexit stance meant that ‘Nigel Farage is now PM.’
A Conservative aide said: ‘Adonis should calm down.’