Railway Station Refurbishment

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 10 March 2016.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South 9:30, 10 March 2016

What funding his Department is providing to help refurbish railway stations.

Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am proud that under Conservative-led Governments since 2010, my Department has made almost £400 million pounds available for station improvements through programmes such as the national stations improvement programme, the station commercial project facility, the new stations fund and the Access for All scheme. In addition, we have many improvements delivered by operators through franchise commitments or through substantial local growth funding.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

What effort is the Minister making to ensure that the rail franchise holders pay their fair share to maintain the railway structure? Will she look at how the Nuckle project in Coventry is working out, in relation to the frequency of train stops at the Ricoh Arena? I believe that there are some problems there.

Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We are clear in our franchising agreements that improvements to stations are absolutely part of those projects. The hon. Gentleman has benefited locally, with Virgin West Coast installation of automatic ticket machines at Coventry station. I was pleased to participate in the opening of the Coventry Arena and Bermuda Park stations, to which the Department contributed almost £5 million, the first stage of the vital Nuckle scheme. That scheme was 14 years on paper under Labour; delivered under this Government thanks to the amazing efforts of the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend Mr Jones.

Photo of James Berry James Berry Conservative, Kingston and Surbiton

When we consider rail station refurbishments, one of the things that we should prioritise is disabled access. On the Chessington branch in my constituency there is not a single accessible station. In the renewal of the South Western route franchise, will the Minister therefore consider prioritising improvements to disabled access on our train stations?

Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Mr Speaker, I am glad that you share my excitement about the improvements in the rail networks. We have set up the £400 million Access for All scheme, which has been wisely and well spent. I am always happy to look at additional station improvements and to meet with my hon. Friend to discuss.

Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Labour/Co-operative, Stalybridge and Hyde

I rise to support the point made by James Berry. I have nine train stations in my constituency. Unfortunately, about half are inaccessible for people in wheelchairs or with prams. We were using Access for All to improve those stations. The funding has been cut in half. Are we really doing enough?

Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am afraid I dispute the statement that funding has been cut in half. The first phase of the programme—£400 million—was delivered, but I am always keen to look at cost-effective ways to improve access for disabled people and young mothers with buggies, for whom a flight of stairs, as I know, and dads like the hon. Gentleman with his daughter know, can be a real problem. I am happy to meet further to discuss.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

Residents in Torbay have welcomed some of the investment that we have seen to improve Torquay station, but Paignton station is a relic of the Beeching era. It is the old goods shed, which was converted into a station. Will she meet me and a delegation from the bay to discuss how we can make Paignton a terminus for the 21st century?

Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Of course. The best way to deliver station improvements is to get together the local group, the local enterprise partnership, local businesses and local communities. The record Government investment in the railways is best spent when it is pulled through to support local needs.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

What assurance can the Minister give that full accessibility for passengers with disabilities is made a priority in the refurbishment of railway stations? Will she ensure that the needs of passengers are central to the refurbishment or renovation of stations without any access provisions or stations that need upgrading? How can that be achieved, given the 40% cut to Access for All funding?

Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I sometimes wonder whether we are reading the same papers. The Government are spending more on the railways—£38 billion—than has been spent at any time since the Victorian era. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that disability access is hugely important. It is also important on the trains. All the train fleet will be disability compliant in the next few years. It is important, but we have a limited amount of money to spend on upgrading the railways, which were woefully neglected under his Government.