There are no specific improvements to journey times and passenger capacity currently planned on the Waterloo to Weymouth line. However, the rail investment strategy requires additional capacity into Waterloo to meet extra demand of 9,700 passengers in the morning peak period by 2018. This could benefit the Weymouth line.
I thank my hon. Friend for that rather disappointing response. Will he explain why we are going to spend a fortune in taxpayers’ money speeding up the journey times between London and Birmingham when those journeys are already 50% faster than those between Southampton and London?
In every part of the country that I travel to, I am told that there are capacity constraints, but there is no simple solution to the problem. I am aware that the journey time from Christchurch into London is two hours and 10 minutes, which is longer than my journey from York to King’s Cross. Of course, the problem is often that faster services have fewer stops. For example, the fastest train on this line does not stop at Christchurch.
More people now travel through Waterloo in three hours every morning than through Heathrow in an entire day, but train services to the south coast remain painfully slow, as has been mentioned. Will the Secretary of State commit to looking into ways by which travel times, particularly to Portsmouth, can be reduced and services speeded up, because it is affecting business investment in our region?
As additional capacity is provided at Waterloo, which is the busiest station in the country with almost 100 million passengers per year, that will allow more flexibility further afield, but this is part of the problem of addressing the tremendous increase in passenger ridership that has occurred since privatisation.