London

Chris Grayling urged to resign over leaked rail letter

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Media captionConservative Bob Neill says Transport Minister Chris Grayling 'is not fit to hold office'

The Transport Secretary has been urged to resign after a leaked letter showed he opposed rail devolution to keep it "out of the clutches" of Labour.

Conservative Chris Grayling said costs were the reason for his overruling of a plan for Transport for London (TfL) to take over suburban rail services.

But in a 2013 letter he sent then London mayor Boris Johnson, Mr Grayling said he did not want a potential Labour mayor to have control of trains.

He is yet to comment on the letter.

In the letter to Mr Johnson, who was in favour of having TfL take over Southern, Southeastern and South West metro services, Mr Grayling said he had "no fears" if the Tories were in charge.

Image caption Chris Grayling sent a letter to Boris Johnson in 2013

Conservative MP Bob Neill, who is chairman of the select committee, said the views expressed in the letter - which was leaked to the Evening Standard - meant Mr Grayling was "unfit for office" and "acted for party political reasons".

He also said the Transport Secretary had "compromised his position and should resign".

Mr Neill added it was dishonest when Mr Grayling told MPs his decision was for financial reasons.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Chris Grayling said he opposed Transport for London taking over Southern, Southeastern and South West train services

Labour London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore said: "It's the greatest shame for passengers that the minister's political point scoring has seemingly taken precedence over their needs.

"The fact remains that where TfL have managed services we've seen some of the best performances.

"If allowing TfL to manage suburban rail franchises will mean paying passengers get better, more reliable services, then we need to move past this pettiness and make it happen."

Image caption Sadiq Khan had hoped to takeover the Southeastern franchise in 2018

Labour's Sadiq Khan, who became London's mayor in May, said giving TfL control of trains was the only way to improve "shocking" passenger service.

Minister for London and Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell said: "This is obviously a letter that was written a long time ago.

"I think the decision that was taken is about what's best for passengers in London which is to bring responsibility for running the track and the services together."

He said the decision was "democratic" as people who live in Kent did not get a say in who the Mayor of London was.

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