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Rail Fares

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 27th January 2009.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Opposition Whip (Commons), Deputy Chair, Conservative Party 2:30 pm, 27th January 2009

What recent representations he has received in relation to fare increases for rail passengers on rail services operated by First Capital Connect and East Midlands Trains.

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Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The Secretary of State has received very few letters on fare increases for those franchises.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Opposition Whip (Commons), Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

According to Andrew Long of the Bedford commuters association, the pain of the recent fare increases, which were well above inflation, has been compounded by the reduction in service by East Midland Trains through Bedford at peak times. That throws much more pressure on to the already overcrowded First Capital Connect trains. When can my constituents expect a better service, or are the Government relying on the recession to make trains more comfortable by thinning out the number of commuters?

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Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The hon. Gentleman should be well aware that there have been increases in capacity to trains serving places such as Kettering, there are faster journey times to Sheffield, and there have been improvements for Bedford. At the moment most of the peak trains consist of eight cars, and he will be aware that we will be able to strengthen the service still further when the first phase of the Thameslink programme is completed by 2011.

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Photo of Andy Reed Andy Reed Labour, Loughborough

Like many passengers, my constituents accept that sometimes fares will increase, but they want an improved service as a consequence. Will my hon. Friend ensure that the capital refurbishment of Loughborough station— the lengthening of the platform, disability access and the regeneration of the surrounding area—is part of the package that East Midlands Trains has to put together alongside the increase in fares?

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Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I will certainly take on board the points made by my hon. Friend, and accessibility and reliability requirements are indeed part and parcel of the franchise agreement.

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Photo of Greg Mulholland Greg Mulholland Shadow Minister (Health)

What representations has the Minister received on behalf of customers of Northern Rail about the recent inflation-busting increase of 6 per cent.? We have some of the most overcrowded trains in the country coming into Leeds, and it is not acceptable to have fare increases without any promise that the overcrowding will be dealt with.

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Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The underlying intention and main thrust of the Government's investment programme of some £10 billion is to meet those immediate requirements for increased capacity between now and 2014. That is why we have invested in additional carriages and cars to increase the number available. We have also invested in programmes to lengthen platforms to accommodate longer trains, so that we can meet the requirements of the hon. Gentleman's constituents and others who experience congestion and demand on the rail network.

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Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Opposition Chief Whip (Commons)

Does the Minister think that those who use East Midlands Trains on a Sunday get a good service for the money that they pay?

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Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I accept that an improved service at weekends is required, but that will inevitably be the case when there is a major programme of investment to improve the infrastructure of the rail network. The best time for it to be carried out is at weekends—but I appreciate the inconvenience that it causes to the travelling public.

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