Chris Grayling. Source: UK government

UK ex-minister Grayling advisor to Hutchison Ports

Former UK transport secretary Chris Grayling has been appointed as an advisor to Hutchison Ports. This is the operator of Felixstowe, which in turn is the biggest intermodal port in the UK. Despite a series of high-profile gaffes in office, Grayling has landed the 100,000 British pounds (110,000 euro) position, and will have to put in seven hours a week for the next year to earn his fee, according to parliamentary sources. Grayling remains the member of parliament for Epsom and Ewell.

The multinational maritime operator Hutchison Ports, which manages the large intermodal terminal at Felixstowe, and the neighbouring cross-channel ferry port at Harwich, is taking on the services of Chris Grayling, a member of the UK parliament in the ruling Conservative party. The appointment comes despite concerns expressed by an independent watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. The non-departmental public body has said that the appointment may give the firm an unfair advantage, according to press reports today in the UK.

Rail freight at Felixstowe

Hutchison Ports have been heavily involved in expanding rail freight operations at Felixstowe, and has worked with a number of rail freight operators to dispatch intermodal flows around the UK. The port says it sees over seventy movements daily, currently connecting with fourteen terminals in England, Scotland and Wales. The port has a rail system of over 11,000 metres in length.

Felixstowe has an extensive roster of freight movements (Hutchison Ports)

Hutchison also recently celebrated the first arrival at their London Thamesport facility, in connection with the vast Thames Tideway project. The first bulk train arrival delivered precast tunnels sections for the so-called super-sewer system serving London.

Grayling track record on rail

The appointment of Grayling has the potential to leave a less than sweet smell lingering in the air. During his time at the Department for Transport, Grayling was accused of several expensive failures. The gaffes included a highly embarrassing contract, signed with a ferry company to deliver goods during any post-Brexit disruption to trade. It was later found out that not only did the company in question have no experience of such operations, it did not in fact operate any vessels suitable for the task.

GBRf/MSC/Felixstowe. Image: Port of Felixstowe
Over 11000 metres of rail infrastructure at Felixstowe (Hutchison Ports)

Grayling was severely criticised for over-running and over-budget delivery of a fleet of replacement passenger trains for services between London and the North East and West of England, South Wales, and Scotland. Most damagingly, he cancelled a number of electrification projects, and was found to have suppressed news of the decision during an election period. Policy on electrification has since changed, but not before further expense to re-engineer electric trains to bi-mode operation.

Several other members of parliament have well remunerated jobs outwith their responsibilities in government.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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