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RAIL unions have accused Transport Secretary Chris Grayling of lying over the reason for his decision to cancel three electrification projects.
Mr Grayling halted the projects in England and Wales last year on the basis that it was unnecessary to electrify every line in order to satisfy passenger expectations, the National Audit Office (NAO) investigation published today finds.
His official justification was that passenger journeys on the Great Western Main Line in south Wales, the Midland Main Line and the Lakes Line between Windermere and Oxenholme could be improved by using upgraded trains.
However, the NAO has concluded that the main reason for the cancellation was financial: the Department for Transport cancelled projects because Network Rail could no longer deliver its investment programme with funding available and the project was cancelled to address the shortfall.
The NAO also cast doubt over whether the department could still deliver the benefits of electrification without these projects.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan accused the government’s story of being “smoke and mirrors” and said the report showed Mr Grayling clearly lied.
He said: “The truth is that the government didn’t want to find the money and made up a story. It is a fantasy. Mr Grayling has been rumbled.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the report “lays bare the delusional and disastrous decision” taken by Mr Grayling.
“The NAO highlights that Chris Grayling cut rail electrification projects without appropriate alternative technology in place,” he said.
And RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Once again the hypocrisy and failures of Chris Grayling are laid bare.
“The only rail priority of this rotten Tory government are bungs and bailouts to the private train companies.”
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