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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 cancellation of services is now progressively more and more planned by Northern as it seeks to stabilise the timetable and to ensure that the travelling public—the constituents of hon. Members on both sides of the House—can plan their journeys with greater assurance. This improvement, and the stabilisation and increased reliability, must continue over coming weeks. Northern plans to run the timetable until the end of July, when it will review progress and take stock. At that point, it will hope significantly to increase the number of timetabled services while ensuring continued improvements in stability.

The crux of the performance issues, as hon. Members have recognised, is the availability of drivers with the correct training. I am happy to say that, as a result of Northern’s hard work with ASLEF on rest day working, they were able to announce last week that they had reached an agreement for the immediate introduction of a new rest day working agreement. This will allow for more training and a better service for passengers sooner.

Let me turn to GTR’s performance. GTR is also working to increase the predictability and reliability of journeys on its network. It is working actively to reduce on-the-day cancellations, and is now updating its timetables on a Friday evening for the following week, enabling passengers to plan ahead more effectively. Alternative travel arrangements are in place. For example, passengers on the Brighton main line can have their Thameslink tickets accepted on Gatwick Express, and next month GTR will introduce a full temporary timetable across its network as the next step to improve reliability and performance for passengers.

It is worth noting that some parts of the GTR network, including all of Southern, are now experiencing more train services and better performance than ever before. However, I do not consider the service to be anywhere near approaching one that I or passengers would find acceptable and, as the Secretary of State said, we are examining why GTR is taking longer than Northern to improve services. The review that has been commissioned will look at whether GTR has met and is continuing to meet its contractual obligations in the planning and delivery of the May timetable.