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Confidence in the Secretary of State for Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:56 pm on 19th June 2018.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Transport), Minister of State (London) 3:56 pm, 19th June 2018

The disruption faced by passengers over the past three weeks on parts of the GTR and Northern franchises is unacceptable. That was reflected in the powerful contributions we heard from my right hon. Friends the Members for Wokingham (John Redwood) and for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon), and my hon. Friends the Members for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami), and for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman). It was also reflected by Opposition Members, including the hon. Members for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin), for Luton South (Mr Shuker) and for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin), who spoke powerfully about the difficult travelling conditions that their constituents have faced in recent weeks.

I want to reassure colleagues on both sides of the House that the Department’s overriding priority is to restore the reliability of service across the network. The Secretary of State has left the rail industry under no illusion that it must urgently improve its operational response including, if necessary, by changing top management, as is now happening at GTR. He has commissioned an independent inquiry by Stephen Glaister of the Office of Rail and Road, the independent regulator, to examine why we are in this situation and to reduce the chances of it ever happening again.

Turning to the performance on Northern, passengers continue to experience disruption on some parts of the network. There is a long way to go until performance is where it needs to be, but we are beginning to turn the corner. The introduction of a temporary timetable by Northern on 4 June will help to rebuild passengers’ trust. The first signs are promising, as industry figures show that over the first two weeks of the reduced timetable, 80% of trains arrived on time, and 4% of trains were cancelled or arrived significantly late. In the previous fortnight, 66% of trains arrived on time and an average of 12% of trains were cancelled or were significantly late. That improvement must continue over the coming weeks.