Railways

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 3rd February 2004.

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Photo of Martin Linton Martin Linton Labour, Battersea 11:30 am, 3rd February 2004

What plans he has to open new stations on the west London line.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The Strategic Rail Authority has approved the construction of two new stations on the west London line—one at Imperial Wharf in Chelsea and one at Shepherds Bush. The earliest date currently envisaged for their opening is February 2005.

Photo of Martin Linton Martin Linton Labour, Battersea

I thank the Minister for his reply, but press the case for reopening Battersea High Street station and other stations on the south and west London orbital lines, such as Brixton, Battersea, Stamford Bridge and North Pole. Is the Minister aware that since privatisation, only two new stations have been opened in the entire south-east of England, because there is absolutely no incentive in the system for Network Rail or the train operating companies to invest in new stations? Indeed, those two new stations had no railway money put into them.

Is the Minister further aware that there is so much freight on the west London line that it will be almost impossible for trains to stop there—

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I reiterate that I have no plans for any more new stations on the west London line. As it is one of the most congested in the country, adding another station would have significant performance implications, and it is highly unlikely that it would be feasible, given the current levels of traffic. As a London MP, I caution my hon. Friend not to equate new stations with the amount of investment that is being made. The London end of the channel tunnel rail link, the Jubilee line extension, the Docklands light railway and all the extensions to it, and the £17 billion of investment in the tube show that investment in transport in London is a key priority for the Government.

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Minister of State, Department for Transport

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that the Strategic Rail Authority, not the Government, has responsibility for specifying minimum service levels in each train operating company's franchise agreement. I understand that the authority's current view is that there is not a sufficiently strong business case for maintaining direct services between Shropshire and London.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions, Young People, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities

I hesitate to thank the Minister for that answer. He may be aware that Shropshire is the only county that from May will not have a direct rail link to London. Indeed, the largest towns in Shropshire—Shrewsbury and Telford—will be the largest towns in the country without such a link. The last route that passes through Ludlow and goes on to Waterloo will be closed from May 2004, thanks to the Strategic Rail Authority. Does the Minister think that he is doing enough to ensure that Shropshire has a direct link to London—or does he have something against the county?

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Minister of State, Department for Transport

That was a very Liberal question. The one train a day that used to run from Shrewsbury via Telford to London Euston was withdrawn from the winter 2000–01 timetable because it did not attract sufficient passengers to make it commercially viable. I do not know if the hon. Gentleman is hinting that that will be yet another addition to the Liberals' spending plans, but it would not surprise me if he was.