Report (3rd Day) (Continued)
Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Labour)
The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, is quite correct. As I said, I have a great deal of sympathy with the point she makes but my concern is that the introduction of a new franchising authority, which the amendment proposes, would be in danger of creating greater fragmentation of the railway than we have at present. I agree with her that there are probably too many train operating companies. It is the Government's intention that franchises should be longer than they have been in the past, and I strongly support that. However, to introduce a new franchising operator could lead to confusion and fragmentation. My noble friend Lord Berkeley refers to services that serve London but go well beyond; the classic example of that is the Thameslink line, which starts in Bedford, goes through Luton and St Albans-none of which is covered by Transport for London or the GLA-and then goes south from Croydon to Brighton.
Services like that need to be looked at in a regional context, and I am not certain that looking at it in a London context would make a great deal of sense. However, I pay tribute to what Transport for London has done in the development of its Overground service. The opening up of the East London line is an extraordinarily successful venture. The trains are very popular and they provide new journey opportunities for people who probably did not make those journeys, or tried to do it by car, or struggled on buses. It deserves to be commended for that.
I agree with my noble friend that it is helpful to have this debate, but this amendment is not quite the way that we should go.