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Thursday 12th
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain


A TORY MP who opposes renationalising the railways says he has “no apology” for taking perks worth over £500 from a private train company.

St Ives MP Derek Thomas was given two tickets for the £60 a head Cornish Business Awards dinner last year by Great Western Railway (GWR).

The firm also paid for a hotel room worth £165 at the May 2016 event.

And in September of the same year GWR paid for his ticket to the National Rail Awards, which was also valued at £60. This time, he accepted train tickets worth £200 to travel to the event.

Earlier in 2016 Mr Thomas had twice voted against public ownership of rail. He opposed a Labour opposition day motion on the topic. And in March he obeyed Tory whips in voting down an amendment which would allow, but not require, a public operator to take charge of High Speed 2.

Mr Thomas defended receiving the hospitality. “Great Western Railway are quite an important employer in Cornwall,” he told the Star.

“They’re very engaged with working with other businesses to promote business. Average wages in Cornwall are about a third less than across the country, so we need every help we can get from businesses working together including from Great Western Rail who actually create connectivity … so people can earn more money.

“So I have no apology for working with Great Western Railway. They were at the event supporting other businesses.”

But train drivers’ union Aslef said Mr Thomas had been “wined and dined rather well” by the company and had gone on to say “what his friends want him to say.”

The union’s general secretary Mick Whelan said: “We need to put the wheels and steel back together and create a vertically integrated railway fit for the 21st century. But the train-operating companies don’t want that. It will be the end of their cash cow.

“When they talk about risk and reward they mean there’s no risk, it’s all reward. And that’s why they wine and dine MPs like Derek Thomas to persuade him of their point of view.

“There is, proverbially, no such thing as a free lunch.”

Mr Thomas said he was still opposed to renationalising the railway.

“I can’t see any financial benefits to the country, and I can’t see any financial benefit to the customers,” he said. “There’s certainly room to improve — I’m not slow in challenging Great Western when they don’t provide the service that customers need.

“There is no likelihood of the railways being renationalised, even if Labour get in there will be a lot of other priorities which they will concentrate their efforts on.

“This time last year there was no mention of renationalising the railway whatsoever.”