This in from the Keep Island Line in Franchise (KILF) campaign group. Ed
Whilst some important issues were aired during the Westminster Hall debate on rail services to Portsmouth and South West, KILF are disappointed that the Island’s MP did not use the occasion to unequivocally back Island Line remaining in the regional franchise for the next period.
Isle of Wight MP, Andrew Turner has – for several months – promoted a community ownership model for Island Line, including through his March 2015 letter to Rail Minister Claire Perry.
This, in turn, led the Government to announce last month that franchise bidders would be asked ‘to help sustain the line while suggesting ideas to turn it into a separate and self-sustaining business during the life of the franchise’.
Out of franchise concerns
KILF remains concerned that as long as options to remove Island Line from the security of a regional franchise remain on the table, its future is far from secure.
Speaking after the debate, KILF Steering Group member Stewart Blackmore said:
“After putting Island Line at risk through his relentless promotion of an unviable community model, Andrew Turner had the chance to use the platform of this debate to recover some of the damage he has caused over recent months. He chose not to do that.
“Instead he exchanged warm platitudes with the Minister about finding a ‘long-term, sustainable future’, claiming this is what the majority of Island Line passengers want. Yet if he was genuinely listening to public opinion, he would know that users want the service improved within a regional operation.
“By choosing not to advocate Island Line’s secure, long-term future in the South Western rail franchise, he wasted this opportunity, instead leaving our service to continue being singled out for a different approach to the rest of the country.”
Turner’s speech “full of contradictions”
David Pugh, who attended the debate added:
“It was good to hear our MP say that Island Line staff are hard-working and deserve better; yet he has allowed his Transport Adviser to commission a report suggesting the use of volunteers on the service. This is just one example of how his contribution to the Westminster Hall debate was full of contradictions with his previous actions that have put the service at risk.
“It was heartening to hear Conservative MPs from across Hampshire make the case for long term improvements within the franchise model. Yet it is notable that the Island’s representative felt unable to do the same; instead leaving the door open for the untested alternative that he has championed.”
Hand delivered letter with concerns
Chris Quirk also attended the debate and took the opportunity to personally give Rail Minister Claire Perry a copy of KILF’s recent letter to her setting out our concerns. Chris said:
“The Minister promised to read the letter and I hope that she and the DfT will take note of its content when preparing the upcoming consultation process.
“It is essential that the Government gives the Isle of Wight the opportunity to make the case for Island Line remaining in the franchise for the entire next duration, and to secure improvements through this model. We have asked for the consultation to allow for that.”
The Minister told the Westminster Hall debate that the consultation on the franchise will start before Christmas. KILF will be encouraging Islanders to fully contribute to this process, along with the review being undertaken by the Isle of Wight Council’s appointee, Christopher Garnett, which will result in the Garnett Report.
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