Railway Rolling Stock

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15 January 1996.

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Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham 12:00, 15 January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement about the provision of new rolling stock for Kent commuters. [7447]

Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough

In his invitation to tender for the south eastern franchise, the franchising director invited proposals for the provision of rolling stock for the full franchise term, which could include the provision of new rolling stock.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

I thank my hon. Friend for the good news that the new trains for Kent commuters are likely to be part of the South Eastern Trains franchise. We hope, therefore, that the franchise will go ahead as quickly as possible. Given the size and importance of the likely order for new trains, will he confirm that the length of the franchise will be sufficiently variable to cope with such a big capital investment? Will he also ensure that the franchisee is expected to get on with placing that order very fast indeed?

Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough

Yes. As we have shown with the London-Tilbury-Southend franchise, the term can be extended—in that case to 15 years—on condition that it includes the replacement of rolling stock. That facility will also be available for the south-eastern franchise. So that no time is lost, British Rail issued a general notice in the Official Journal of the European Communities under the prequalification procedure which a franchise operator can use to take an early decision on the procurement of new rolling stock.

Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham

Why is it that, under the last Labour Government, commuters on the north Kent coast line could commute to London seated four abreast with plenty of space for their knees while under the Government's new order they will have to sit five abreast without adequate leg room?

Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough

I am tempted to suggest that perhaps some of the Government's health education propaganda about being overweight has been taken up by the people of Kent. The hon. Gentleman should know that Kent commuters have already benefited from the recent large investment in Networkers. They will soon benefit further from part of the Networker Express order currently being completed by ABB.