‘Can’t believe I’m watching this’: Minister in awkward clash with BBC presenter over train timetables

·Freelance news writer, Yahoo UK
·2-min read

Watch: Minister and BBC presenter in awkward clash over train strikes

This is the moment a government minister incorrectly reprimands a BBC presenter for saying only one train an hour is running between Manchester and London today.

In the awkward exchange, transport secretary Grant Shapps suggested Charlie Stayt was “getting confused” - when in fact the BBC Breakfast presenter was completely correct.

The ongoing fallout from train strikes has resulted in Avanti West Coast, the firm which runs direct services between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston, operating a reduced timetable.

On a normal day, there are three trains an hour from Manchester to the capital, and vice versa.

Shapps, smiling, told Stayt: “You incorrectly told your viewers there’s only one train running from Manchester to London. That’s not the case even under the reduced timetable, it’s four trains an hour.”

Grant Shapps said there were four trains an hour running from Manchester to London today. National Rail's timetable shows it was one an hour. (National Rail/BBC)
Grant Shapps said there were four trains an hour running from Manchester to London today. National Rail's timetable shows it was one an hour. (National Rail/BBC)

Stayt simply responded: “A direct train? There’s only one an hour at the moment.”

National Rail’s Journey Planner website shows there is only one train an hour from Manchester to London - as Stayt said - between 9am and 7pm on Friday. From London to Manchester, there is also only one an hour between 8am and 6pm.

With this fact repeated to Shapps, the transport secretary asked: “When you say direct, are you saying trains that stop at no other stations?” Stayt said: “They’ve always done that.”

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Shapps told Stayt “you might be getting confused here”. Stayt replied: “I suspect we’re both going to go and check our timetables to see exactly when the trains are available over the next few weeks or so.”

Louise Haigh, the shadow transport secretary, said of the exchange: "This is infuriating. The clueless transport secretary doesn’t have the first idea how bad the disruption he signed-off on [a reference to Shapps refusing to meet unions amid the strikes] is. Passengers are paying the price for his sheer incompetence."

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham also said: "I can’t believe I’m watching this. What hope do we have when the transport secretary doesn’t know the details of the reduced timetable he signed off?"