Railways

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 21st March 2007.

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Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn 11:30 am, 21st March 2007

What recent meetings he has had with ministerial colleagues and others on the number of people using the railways in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Nick Ainger Nick Ainger Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Wales Office

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I regularly meet ministerial colleagues and others to discuss issues affecting Wales, including rail services. There has been a very encouraging rise in rail use over recent years. There are now more than 1 billion passenger journeys every year throughout the UK—a 35 per cent. increase on the 1995-96 figure.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. Labour's extra investment in north Wales has resulted in improved services and increased demand. However, he will be aware of Virgin Trains' plan to replace the Pendolino trains with Super Voyagers post-2008. Will he agree to meet me and a small delegation to discuss this issue in detail, to ensure that we get the improved services on board that such demand requires?

Photo of Nick Ainger Nick Ainger Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Wales Office

Yes, I am more than happy to meet a delegation led by my hon. Friend. As he says, Virgin is replacing the Pendolino carriages on the north Wales route with the more reliable Voyager trains. Although the Voyager carriages have fewer seats, there will be no decrease in service because there will be more trains and therefore more seats, and a better service. I know that he met Virgin recently to discuss these matters, and I understand that a follow-up meeting has been arranged for a few months, but as I said, I will certainly meet him and his delegation to discuss these matters.

Photo of Mark Williams Mark Williams Shadow Minister (Wales)

Notwithstanding the rosy picture that the Minister has painted, does he agree that there are particular problems on the mid-Wales and Cambrian coastline lines, and will he convey to the Assembly Government and his ministerial colleagues the concerns of many of my constituents about a service characterised by clapped-out rolling stock, overcrowded trains and missed connections? That is the reality of train use in mid-Wales.

Photo of Nick Ainger Nick Ainger Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Wales Office

While I understand that there are problems throughout the rail network, the issue is one of demand and supply. We are seeing a rapid increase in rail use and the rail companies are lagging behind with their investment. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government have announced a further 1,000 carriages over the next few years, and the Welsh Assembly Government are putting in a further £1. 6 million to reduce overcrowding on the Cambrian main line. I am sure that he will see an improvement in the near future.