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Wales and Borders: Rail Franchise

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th January 2017.

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Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham 12:00 am, 12th January 2017

What his plans are for the next rail franchise for Wales and Borders; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Secretary of State for Transport

It has been agreed in principle that Welsh Government Ministers will procure and manage the next Wales and Borders rail franchise. My Department is working closely with the Welsh Government to ensure the appropriate transfer of the necessary powers. However, I want to make it absolutely clear that, as part of those arrangements, we are ensuring that the train services and stations used by passengers in England are protected and, importantly, treated consistently with those in Wales, both during this procurement process and across the whole life of the franchise.

Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham

That is a very welcome answer from the Secretary of State. We have briefed him about the extraordinary overcrowding on Arriva trains over the past few years, particularly in the summer months—with the windows sealed and a lot of people cramming into the carriages, it has been intolerable. Will he ensure that the next franchise accommodates the levels required for passengers to travel safely and more services from Shrewsbury to Birmingham airport?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Secretary of State for Transport

I am aware of the capacity issues on the Wales and the Borders franchise and, indeed, on the CrossCountry franchise. One of the challenges, owing to the rapid growth in recent years, is that there are not enough diesel trains to go around at the moment. I had the great pleasure of being at Newton Aycliffe in County Durham for the launch of the first new hybrid train to be manufactured there. That will open up the opportunity for us to deliver significant change to rolling stock across our network, and will enable us to address many of the overcrowding challenges to which my hon. Friend refers.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Secretary of State will be aware that he decided last October to devolve the cross-border franchise to the Welsh Government, but current legislation does not allow a public sector organisation to bid for the new franchise. Will he think again and allow public sector organisations the ability to bid for the franchise, to allow the public the best possible service when it begins?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Secretary of State for Transport

The Labour party is keen on renationalising our railways. What I would remind it is that if its policies were implemented we would lose the ability to deliver the new trains that are being delivered right across this country, paid for by private sector investment. What Labour Members are calling for is turning back the clock and having older trains on our network. I am afraid that that is not my view.