UK: Beleaguered transport minister quits
UK transport minister Stephen Byers unexpectedly resigned this afternoon.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Byers told a news conference that his departure was the “right thing to do for the government and the Labour party”.
The non-driving Byers, often seen on television being chauffeur-driven to work in a taxpayer-funded Vauxhall Omega, had been criticised during his tenure for planing to introduce road congestion-reducing measures seen as 'anti-motorist' while failing to improve the UK#;s mostly overcrowded, expensive and inefficient public transport systems.
He was recently embroiled in the aftermath of his decision to place the rail infrastructure operator Railtrack 'in administration' [with similar effect to bankruptcy or US Chapter 11 provisions], provoking a backlash from shareholders, rail user groups and train operators. A fatal passenger train crash possibly caused by poor points maintenance put Byers under further pressure.
The Guardian reported that the minister – who allegedly lied to Parliament and a rail safety pressure group about the Railtrack affair – said he recognised that he had become a distraction for the government and that by remaining in office he would “damage the government”.