Yet there is, as there usually is, some backstory here. Let's go back to the beginning of the story. Far from this being the initiative of an on the ball minister, this is actually the story of a rather frustrated baroness. As Ros relates, because it is her, gentle reader...
Asked By Baroness Scott of Needham Market
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they advise Network Rail on the strategic impact of its engineering works programme.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, the Government do not provide such advice. This is an operational matter for Network Rail, overseen by the independent Office of Rail Regulation. As part of the Periodic Review 2008 final determinations accepted by Network Rail on 5 February, the Office of Rail Regulation has set targets and provided funding for Network Rail to reduce the impact of its engineering works on users of the railway.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the weekend after next both the east coast and the west coast main lines will have severe delays due to engineering works and that it is not uncommon for two of the three routes into East Anglia also to be subject to delays? Who speaks on behalf of passengers when the overall network delays are simply unacceptable?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I understand the noble Baroness’s point about inconvenience to passengers. It is precisely for that reason that the Office of Rail Regulation, which is the body responsible for ensuring that the voice of passengers is conveyed loud and clear to Network Rail, has agreed with Network Rail that over the next five years there will be a reduction of more than one-third in the disruption caused to passengers by engineering work. Of course, it is not possible to maintain the railway without engineering work, which will cause some disruption to passengers, but we expect that the target of a one-third reduction in that disruption will make a big difference to the experience of members of the travelling public.
So, on 2 March, our noble friend Lord Adonis is saying that, "It's nothing to do with me, talk to the Office of Rail Regulation.". In other words, we don't have anything to do with it.
And yet, and yet... Andrew then writes to Iain Coucher, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, raising the subject. Iain then writes to Ros, providing an explanation but nothing resembling a genuine apology. Of course, it's nothing to do with Andrew, as the Office of Rail Regulation is responsible for ensuring that the voice of passengers is conveyed loud and clear to Network Rail, his words, not mine.
And so we reach yesterday, when Andrew suddenly claims the credit for putting a rocket up Network Rail.
All I can say to Lord Adonis is;
- Either your answer on 2 March was deliberately evasive, or you are an interfering busybody, bypassing the Office of Rail Regulation when it suits, hiding behind it when it doesn't.
- You are an appalling glory seeker, only interested in burnishing your personal reputation regardless of the facts.
Frankly, you're lucky that Ros adheres to the courtesies of the House of Lords. If I was in her place, I'd be looking for the metaphorical lamppost and piano wire. Andrew Adonis, you are no gentleman...