If he will meet senior management of Southeastern to discuss the reliability of its rail service; and if he will make a statement.
I regularly meet the senior management of Southeastern to discuss their rail services, and I want to assure my hon. Friend that the recovery of reliability on that route is of the utmost importance to Southeastern, to Network Rail, to my Department and to Transport Focus. I now chair the weekly meeting of a taskforce comprising all those bodies and Southern Railway that is dedicated to improving the reliability and performance of the railway for customers travelling on those vital routes.
I am grateful to the Minister for the steps she has taken, of which I have had experience, but the fact remains that the performance of Southeastern trains is wholly unacceptable. I am getting emails from my constituents saying that their train is five minutes late more than 60% of the time, which tells me that the message is still not getting through. Should we not be urgently considering the introduction of financial penalties? Should we perhaps consider, even in advance of the franchise renewal in 2018, bringing in an operator such as London Overground, which operates its services infinitely more efficiently?
My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that performance is recovering, from a pretty low point last autumn, and that right-time performance is about 62%. That is still not good enough, in my view, but performance is on the mend. We face a massive challenge, in that we are doing some of the biggest engineering works in the UK around the critical stations that serve that part of the network, but that is not an excuse. We have to get performance better during these times of disruption, and that is what the quadrant taskforce is dedicated to doing.
One of the main frustrations of my constituents who use Southeastern trains is the number of occasions on which shorter trains than expected arrive at stations, resulting in acute overcrowding. Will the Minister commit to redeploying some of the Thameslink class 319 carriages to the Southeastern network to ease that problem?
I commend the hon. Lady, who, unlike some of her colleagues, is an assiduous campaigner on the railways in her constituency. It is nice to see someone who really cares about the railways, rather than someone who simply reads out the Whips’ questions. [Interruption.] She is a Whip, as she points out, and this is her own question. She is right to focus on the issue of rolling stock, and she will be pleased to know that we have received a proposal for improving the rolling stock on that route, which we are now considering. I will take her suggestion into account.
Another person who cares about his local railways. I am hoping the hon. Gentleman will join us at London Bridge on Monday, where we are having a really deep dive into what is going on there and the recovery plans for his route. He will know that the Chancellor has committed further funding to the feasibility study, which will help inform us as to the overall benefits. Of course the hon. Gentleman knows that this line, although very welcome to many, has to be effective in terms of cost and affordability—that is what we will be looking to see.
Not now—we will save the hon. Gentleman up for later.