Rail Franchise System

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 11th June 2015.

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Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Labour/Co-operative, Redcar 9:30 am, 11th June 2015

What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the rail franchise system.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

We continuously monitor a range of indicators, including performance figures and passenger satisfaction. Rail use is at its highest level since the 1920s: 1.65 billion passenger journeys were made in Great Britain on franchised passenger trains in 2014-15. The number of journeys made on the rail network has more than doubled since the introduction of the franchise system .

Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Labour/Co-operative, Redcar

Will the Secretary of State join me in urging Network Rail to upgrade the level crossing in Redcar town centre? West Dyke Road, which is a main artery into town, has been closed more than 15 times in the last year. Network Rail has promised upgrades, but they are not forthcoming. The problem is having a huge impact on small businesses, which are having to close, and also on bus routes.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

I welcome the hon. Lady to the House. My hon. Friend the rail Minister will be more than happy to meet her to discuss the issue. Network Rail has a huge investment programme, and it is certainly trying to address the problems of level crossings.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

As the Secretary of State will know, I was very disappointed that, at the time of its franchise bid, it was not possible to persuade Virgin Trains to provide a service to Grimsby via Market Rasen. It is already running four trains a day to Lincoln. Is there anything to prevent it, under its franchise, from extending at least one service a day to Grimsby via Market Rasen in order to serve that huge rural area?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

I shall be happy to look into the matter, but I welcome the fact that the new franchise on the east coast is producing some remarkable new services, which will benefit towns that have not had rail services for some 50 years.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Transport)

London Overground and Merseyrail have transformed stations and services that were unreliable and unsafe under the previous franchise holders. In stark contrast, the recent performance of franchise-holders such as Southeastern has been woeful on lines that Ministers had considered devolving to Transport for London before rejecting the plan. Notwithstanding the rhetoric on devolution, the reality is that progress has been as slow and inconsistent as commuters’ early morning trains.

There is a real appetite for taking on more services in the north, the west midlands and elsewhere. Is it not time to get on with that, rather than sticking with franchises that are failing passengers?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

In 13 years, there was no devolution of rail services. We have done more to devolve rail services in five years than the last Government even considered possible, and I am very proud of that.