Train Services (Nuneaton)
Tom Harris (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport; Glasgow South, Labour)
I understand my hon. Friend's point. Perhaps there is a Catch-22 situation here. If more services are provided to an area that has not grown so far, will that be a spur to growth and increase patronage, or do we provide services in areas where growth has already been proven to happen? We are adopting the second approach. Perhaps I should clarify what I said earlier about the business generated by Rugby. In terms of revenue, from Virgin's own figures, Rugby produces two and a half times more income or revenue than Nuneaton.
The recently published Eddington study highlighted the importance of addressing inter-urban travel and the key role that rail would play. However, this is also a matter of allocating rail resources to areas where the best contribution can be achieved. It is worth reminding ourselves of the situation at Nuneaton. The London peak traffic is largely unaffected: there are different departure times, but with such a substantial change to all services along the route, that is unavoidable. However, I am not aware of any situation where such a long lead time has been provided so that passengers can plan accordingly.
In the off-peak periods, there is still a good train service. Some have dismissed it as unsuitable, but I strongly disagree. The service will be operated by quality trains with a high standard of reliability. Although it is slower than the Pendolino service, as my hon. Friend said correctly, many off-peak passengers are not so time-critical with their journeys, and a direct service to and from London, and many more destinations, will still be available. I accept that in some cases a change of train will be necessary, but such flows are small in number.
With the 690,000 passengers a year who use Nuneaton station, it is likely that there will still be an increase in the London traffic. Some 157,000 passengers used Virgin west coast services to or from London in 2006-07 and the overwhelming majority are expected to use the remaining Virgin Pendolino services, given their attractive timing for commuters and business users. About one third are expected to transfer to the new London Midland Desiro services. Weekend travel from Nuneaton to London is expected to grow substantially as the periods of prolonged engineering work terminate. Although Nuneaton would see a reduction in fast trains, it is far from isolated. A change in train service is not likely to impact adversely on the economy of the town or the catchment area of the station.
I thank my hon. Friend again for the constructive, though very resilient, way that he has lobbied on this issue. If he has achieved some concession from Virgin Trains, I shall certainly welcome that and try to confirm it in writing to him in the next few days.