Local MP Douglas Carswell last week took part in a House of Commons debate on the train service to Essex.
Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, raised concerns about the quality and frequency of train services for East Anglia counties. Other MPs highlighted the poor level of infrastructure and trains in use. The trains minister, Claire Perry MP, focused on the need for new rolling stock.
The franchise is up for renewal in October 2016, with FirstGroup and National Express bidding for it, along with the current operator, Abellio. The deadline for the bids closed on December 17.
In the debate, Douglas raised the issue of Network Rail corporate governance. Douglas said that:
"Regardless of who is awarded the franchise, does the Minister agree that unless we address the fundamental issue of corporate governance and accountability, and the underlying problem, which is Network Rail and its mediocre service, we will not see the transformative change she wants?"
In her response, the minister said that "we have made huge progress on Network Rail's governance. It is now an arm's length body." The minister did not directly address Douglas point that real change is only possible with tackling the way Network Rail is run.
Douglas has repeatedly and consistently raised the issue of the unaccountable corporate governance of Network Rail. Network Rail became a central government body in the public sector in September 2014, which means that its £30bn debt is now part of the government's accounts.
After the debate, Douglas made clear that:
"Clacton commuters, and indeed all those who live in Essex, desperately need a better rail service. Changing the franchise and even introducing new rolling stock are of course welcome, but simply won't solve the key problem.
"Network Rail has a labyrinthine governance and accountability structure which must be addressed. Time and again, transport ministers have come to the House of Commons and insisted that they are powerless to introduce real reform of the body, because of the arm's length nature of Network Rail.
"I'm sure Sir Peter Hendy is well qualified for his new role at Network Rail. But the government must lay out a plan which stops repeated failures. These effect commuters and franchisees up and down the county."