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Confidence in the Secretary of State for Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:09 pm on 19th June 2018.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Secretary of State for Transport 2:09 pm, 19th June 2018

I will make some progress before I give way again.

I would like to update the House on how the industry is working to improve the reliability of services. On 4 June, Northern introduced a temporary timetable, including a targeted reduction in trains by around 6% to achieve a more deliverable service. Even with this reduction in service, there are still more trains running across the whole Northern network than before the timetable change in May. That does not mean that there are not individual areas that still have very significant problems, and I am very conscious that many passengers are still experiencing significant disruption, but there are signs that the service is stabilising. Over the first two weeks of the reduced timetable, 80% of trains arrived on time and 4% were cancelled or arrived significantly late, which is a significant improvement. This is not nearly good enough, but it is an improvement on what was happening before the introduction of that timetable. Northern is planning to run the timetable until the end of July, when it will review and, we hope, significantly increase the number of trains running, while ensuring continued stability. Stability is the most important thing for passengers so that they know what is expected, when trains are going to come and that they are going to come.

Officials from the Rail North Partnership—it is worth reminding Labour Members that this franchise is managed as a partnership between my Department and the leaders of local authorities in the north. Decisions about it are taken by the partnership board of Transport for the North, and it has been considering how to respond—[Interruption.] The shadow Secretary of State says it does not exist. This is the most devolved franchise in England. Responsibilities for managing and overseeing the franchise are shared through the board of Transport for the North—[Interruption.] Labour Members do not like it, but that is the truth.

GTR is also working to increase the predictability and reliability of journeys on its network. It is working actively to reduce the number of on-the-day cancellations and is now updating its timetables a week ahead. There is clearly still a lot more to do. In too many places, there is very significant disruption, but we have to move things in the right direction. Alternative travel arrangements are in place—for example, for passengers on the Brighton main line, who can have their Thameslink tickets accepted on Gatwick Express. Next month, GTR will introduce a full temporary timetable across its network as the next step to improve reliability and performance for passengers. This will allow GTR to slowly build up services to the new full timetable.