MPs narrowly back transport secretary Chris Grayling in vote of no confidence over timetable chaos

Benjamin Kentish
Chris Grayling has faced criticism over his handling of timetable disruption on Northern Rail and the Govia Thameslink Railway: REUTERS

Chris Grayling has survived a Commons vote of no confidence called by Labour after weeks of railway chaos.

MPs backed the beleaguered transport secretary by 305 votes to 285 – a majority of 20 - despite opposition MPs arguing he could “never recover” from the recent train timetable fiasco.

Labour tabled the no confidence motion in a bid to force Theresa May to replace Mr Grayling, who has faced criticism over railway disruption that caused chaos for thousands of passengers using Northern Rail and the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).

It said the transport secretary needed to “step up and shoulder the blame” for the saga.

Although the vote was not binding, Ms May would have come under fresh pressure to sack Mr Grayling had Conservatives MPs joined opposition parties in voting against him.

Speaking in the Commons, Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said he regretted having to table the motion but accused Mr Grayling of a "breach of faith and trust".

He said: "Given the totally unacceptable state of the railways, I felt I had a duty to passengers.

"I am afraid the breach of faith and trust is so great that the Secretary of State's credibility will never recover.

He added: "There comes a point where the publicly accountable politician in charge of the railways should step up and shoulder the blame.

"It seems to me, and I suspect to many rail users, that we have more than reached that."

UK news in pictures

UK news in pictures

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The row centres on prolonged disruption following a change in timetabling. Northern and Govia had not made sufficient preparations for the change, leading to hundreds of trains each day being cancelled. The companies blamed Network Rail, saying they had not been left with enough time to implement the new timetables.

Defending his handling of the crisis, Mr Grayling accused Labour of “political point scoring”

He said: "For years the opposition have demanded that the railways are re-nationalised and run by the government and they've claimed they'd be run much better if they were.

"Now it appears they think the railways are already run by the government and if something goes wrong it's down to us.".

He added: "What doesn't help passengers is political point scoring, we've seen that today. We need to work to deliver the best outcome for passengers, we need to improve services urgently.

"That's what I'm focused on, it's what my department is focused on and it's what the government is focused on."