Commons jeering over locomotives relocation plan from north to south

Labour veteran Jack Straw

Labour veteran Jack Straw

First published in News

Conservative ministers laughed and jeered when a protest was made over trains being swiped from the North to serve Oxfordshire.

Prime Minister’s Questions was interrupted in the Commons when Labour veteran Jack Straw was unable to complete his question, because of the racket.

Chancellor George Osborne and Commons Leader Andrew Lansley joined the Prime Minister in pointing and laughing at the former Foreign Secretary.

A Bradford MP immediately accused them of showing “contempt” for places – including Bradford itself – which could potentially be hit.

The row blew up after the shock decision to withdraw nine trains from the TransPennine Express franchise, which serves towns across the North and Yorkshire.

The rail operator itself criticised the transfer, pointing out the decision – taking effect next April – had been taken by a rolling stock leasing company Porterbrook. The nine trains will be withdrawn from routes between Manchester and Hull and there are fears the knock-on effects could hit other services.

Gerry Sutcliffe, the Bradford South Labour MP, said: “It is clear that Cameron and the Tories have complete contempt for the North, which manifests itself in decisions like this.”

Most observers believed the laughter was because Mr Straw, the Blackburn MP, has a home in the Chilterns – to where the locomotives will be moved.

Amid the jeering, Mr Straw said: “This may be a laughing matter to Government members, but it is certainly not a laughing matter to people in the North of England.”

In reply, Mr Cameron agreed to “look carefully” at the decision and pointed to other rail improvements, including the electrification of the Trans-Pennine line.

The Department for Transport said replacement trains will be made available – but some MPs fear they would be ageing ‘pacers’ already used on the northern lines.

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