Avanti must be stripped of its franchise if it continues to show it is incapable of running an efficient service Esther McVey has warned - as she told Parliament how she was forced to squeeze into a luggage rack on a recent journey to get a seat.
The Tatton MP told how she manoeuvred herself into the rack on the journey from Wilmslow to London.
She told MPs: “A few weeks ago Bee Rowlatt, a rail traveller, caused a Twitter storm by posting up a picture of her child she had stuffed in a luggage rack. I sympathised, for I had done exactly the same thing, but it was not a child I had stuffed in the luggage rack, it was me for the full two hour journey, that was because several trains crushed into one.
“Most people were standing but fortunately I manged to squeeze, I say fortunately ironically, into the travel rack and sat there for the full journey. Bee Rowlatt’s was on Grand Central, mine on Avanti.”
Speaking in Parliament in a debate on rail transport services for communities served by the West Coast Mainline, Ms McVey said the once regular service was so bad, when she arrives at Wilmslow station even the guards are unaware whether a train will turn up or not.
She said: “Avanti has to get its house in order or lose its contract for someone who can run a better rail service. We need to get our rail system back up and running. It has been knocked sideways during the lockdown and it is being battered now by industrial action. And all we get are excuses, staff shortages, staff late for work, general delays, or random cancellations.”
She told MPs the reliability of the once regular service was not acceptable, especially given the price people pay for rail travel and that the journey from Wilmslow to London which should take 1 hour 50 can take up to 4.5 hours, even six hours on occasion.
Ms McVey said: “The travelling public are being taken as fools; we no longer have a rail service but a rail sufferance. It is an unreliable system that has gone backwards to such an extent it’s probably as bad as British Rail used to be when it was the butt of every comedian’s joke. Trains might or might not arrive.”
She said delays had been made worse by industrial action and criticised the RMT adding its latest “act of sabotage” which sees 48 hour strikes this month and next will wipe £1.2 billion from the UK economy over Christmas.
Ms McVey said: “I am not excusing the management of these railway companies but between them and the unions they will force people to travel by other means, anything other than train. Those who will suffer the most will be those who work on the railways.”
Ms McVey also urged government to act and hold Avanti to account to ensure a better service for her constituents.
She added: “We need to get our rail system back on track. An idea which would make it reliable, regular, and well maintained is to stop wasting all of those billion of pounds going into HS2 and get a proper train system working right across the country, locally and nationally for all of the citizens of this country.”