He is a deadpan frontman and a loyal protector. of misguided”big dog” in Downing Street. through the lens of conservative politics transport secretary Grant Shapps on winning streak.
But as the crisis approaches in a key part of his main job is to manage the railways – series of strange interventions caused bewilderment and irritation. What, the industry is interested in, is happening on with Shapps and Department for Transport?
Loud concern turned into outright condemnation in quarters, at a time when the biggest rail unionRMT, launched national strike vote, against background of lost profits, major cuts and uncertainty future.
While pace of promised reforms and investment were slow, Shapps promoted personal wheezes that divide of the railway industry believes that the best mistaken and smack of YouTube while Rome is burning.
Allies of Shapps say that the videos filmed in speed on minimal budget to reach new audiences – and minister be rude up turned out to be relatively viral. Using the acting talents of his past life of Michael Green when he worked as a get-rich-quick marketer, Shapps off movies promising to end the “annoying” train announcements, announced a public vote choose the location of the railway head office and renamed a small ticketing promotion the Great British Rail Sale.
Another production of Shapps – explanation moves deal with noisy cars – expected drop this weekend.
Few railroad officials openly expressed dissatisfaction, but others off the salary came out blazing. In a scathing editorial by Nigel Harris, boss of trade publication Railwaydescribed Shapps, an experienced pilot, as the least enthusiastic secretary of the state he faced in 25 years blaming him of “not just a shameful absence of leadership, but also shameful shortcoming of interest”. When talking with the Department for Transport, Harris was told that transport secretary “Doesn’t work with railroads.”
Even normally supportive organizations such as the Railroad Industries Association (RIA) made desperate statements. In April, RIA marked 900 days since government updated his pipeline of railway engineering, “leaving the industry in darkness”. Under Shapps’ predecessor Chris Grayling, the annual update was decisive for rail suppliers plan ahead.
For some disadvantage of engagement is not necessarily evil. BUT senior rail figure says: “Haius would constantly interfere in Railway … danger with Shapps is that he doesn’t until a little of political advantage or TikTok video.”
Christian Wolmar, railway historian and writer, says: “He one of the government’s most effective communicators. But he has zero interest in transport other than general aviation, and where he can fly by plane. A person who runs the transport is called “Gilligan” and in No. 10″.
This image of relative influence of Andrew Gilligan, Boris Johnson’s transportation adviser, disputed government insiders though interest #10 in railway investment as way to level up” saved DfT on on a tighter leash than some departments. As an authoritative railroad source put it, Shapps was “stuck between rock and hard place … any major announcement must pass Gilligan at number 10 for review and alterations, and the treasury holds all the purses.
The check is intense with large government subsidy – an additional £15bn from start of pandemic to replace the lost revenue from the number of passengers that remain stubbornly below pre-pandemic levels – and battles over investments squeezing DfT between #10 and #11 in key decisions on HS2 and integrated rail plan. As one The industry leader puts it this way: government is an more more than ever, even under British Rail.”
Ironically, state micromanagement has been defined as problem in Williams review of the old franchising system, which was abolished due to economic necessity under Shaps in 2020. In the meantime, the industry is waiting for reforms in the long-delayed Williams-Shaps plan, the desire to intervene on little things are yet to be put down.
The Great British Rail Sale has been hyped up in Shapps office and it is believed that this came as a surprise to some, not least the nascent Great British Railways. Even inside DfT, senior officials expressed shock at final Presentation: “It was stunning. What did they think of?
Officials complain about the absence of Shapps of attention to detail and unwillingness to be informed by experts outside his inner circle. “He has no appointments with people just sees his immediate team. Everything must be written on two sides of paper for his.”
Shapps allies confirm he will politely decline longer informational notes, but argues that brevity is critical to run a wide-ranging department where during Covid all sectors plunged into crisis. “He takes home red box every night and reads everything. one said.
The railroad remains insist on the springs, the heart of his ministry – and takes up disproportionate amount of time compared with cars and even buses. Shapps said he wanted transport job, and as a commuter rail passenger, he understands the passenger’s point of view, they argue. One said, “Give the man a bloody chance … he received a £96bn settlement for railroad, and he’s trying to revolutionize the railroad industry.” via Williams-Shaps plan.
For Anthony Smith, CEO of passenger guard transport focus, “acid test is whether they keep the investment… and that’s secretary of the state has.
However, perception remains it is widely believed that Chappe is engaged in self-promotion in the style of Liz Truss, for cabinet post more to his interest.
“All this would be in order if he paid attention to everything else. There are so many important issues that he ignores.” says Harris. Videos are trivial, but also hurts, he says: head office vote, potentially eradicating thousands of people from Milton Keynes on a public whim, vital personnel may bleed: “When you move, you bleed.”
Railway editor clear: “He’s the worst transport secretary I can remember. And yet he is really very good communicator – and could do a lot of good”.