Wilkinson says sorry (at last)

21 July 2016

Peter Wilkinson, the DfT official who earlier this year called train drivers ‘muppets’, lied about drivers’ salaries, and got a string of facts about the railway wrong, finally apologised for his ill-considered and intemperate remarks when he was hauled before the Transport Select Committee at the House of Commons yesterday. Wilkinson, who earns £265,000 a year as director of rail passenger services at the Department for Transport, recanted for saying, at a public meeting in Croydon on 18 February hosted by Conservative MP Gavin Barwell, that he wanted a ‘punch-up’ with the rail unions, would force us into a strike, and then break us, and drive us out of what he curiously, as a public servant, referred to as ‘my industry’.

Mick Whelan, general secretary, said this morning: ‘I am glad that Peter Wilkinson has, eventually, said sorry, properly, for remarks – a toxic cocktail of insults, ill-informed opinion, half-truths and downright lies – made five months ago at a public meeting in February. It’s taken him a very long time to do the decent thing but we are glad that he has. Now that Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has been moved, and Rail Minister Claire Perry resigned, we have an opportunity to move forward together, all of us who work in the rail industry, to build a better railway for the benefit of passengers, business, and staff alike. That is what we at ASLEF have always sought to do. It might be that Mr Wilkinson has seen which way the wind is blowing…’

Note: Peter Wilkinson said: ‘We’re going to have punch ups and we will see industrial action and I want your support. We have got to break them [the rail unions and their members]. They have all borrowed money to buy cars and got credit cards. They can’t afford to spend too long on strike and I will push them into that place.’

After Mick demanded he say sorry for his extraordinary, and offensive, comments Wilkinson offered this half-hearted apology back in February: ‘I apologise for any offence caused by my comments. I care passionately about the rail industry and I am committed to helping government deliver a better rail service for passengers. To do this we need to work with the whole of the rail industry.’ While a spokesman at the DfT said: ‘It is right that Peter Wilkinson has apologised for his comments.’

Mick said at the time: ‘This bland, and unacceptable, non-apology from Mr Wilkinson does nothing to restore faith or trust in the DfT for those in the front line and who deliver the railway every day. We shall look forward to the promised £60k salary and short working week that he stipulated in every future franchise as a base line; and as for the lies about breaks, we are happy to insist on those, too. Maybe the public will now understand how twenty years of ineptitude gets placed on the staff not those who create and perpetuate a flawed model. We await the ministers response to Mr Wilkinson and his actions with great interest?’

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