Cross-border Rail Services

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th July 2018.

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Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour) 12:00 am, 18th July 2018

What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on improving cross-border rail services to and from Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

The Government recognise that cross-border connectivity is critically important. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular meetings with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to look at what improvements can be made to support better journeys for Welsh and English passengers.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour)

People in Neston are concerned that the rail timetable to be introduced by the new operator on the Wrexham to Bidston line may lead to an inferior service on the English side of the border. When I asked the Rail Minister about that recently, he told me that it was the Welsh Assembly’s responsibility, not his; but my constituents have no representation there. Who is accountable for services on the English side of the border within this Parliament?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Wales & Borders franchise is part of the Government’s commitment to devolving powers, so there is a joint responsibility between the two Governments. If he wants me to make representations on his behalf to the Welsh Government, I would be more than happy to do so.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire

Has my hon. Friend had the chance to speak to the management of Great Western Railway about the total shambles that was its rail service last Sunday afternoon, when thousands of passengers faced cancelled or disrupted trains due to staffing problems arising from the World cup final? England did not qualify for the final and Wales was not even at the tournament, so it should not have led to meltdown on the rail network last Sunday.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. When these services do not run effectively, that has a massive impact on his constituents and all commuters. I would be happy to meet him to discuss this further, so that we can take it up with the people responsible.

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

My constituents were promised electric trains running into Cardiff Central by last year. This week, we found out that they will not even be coming into Cardiff Central by the end of next year. When will the Minister sort out the shambles that is the Great Western Railway line from London to Cardiff?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

It is important to recognise that we are investing a massive amount of money to ensure that the electrification brings about improved journey times. The Welsh Government have come up with some suggestions about how we might resolve these issues, and we will work with them collaboratively on that. Let us not forget, though, that this Government are making a massive investment in the railway system.

Photo of David Jones David Jones Conservative, Clwyd West

How is work progressing to develop the business case for the north-east Wales metro?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

My right hon. Friend will know that we are looking at a host of different projects that will improve journey times for passengers in north Wales, such as the Wrexham to Bidston line. On the specific issue that he raises, we are looking at that across the board, including through the growth deal that we are developing at the moment.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. In generously but appropriately congratulating the Minister not on his birthday but on the magnificence of his tie, can I urge him to face the Chamber so that we enjoy the benefit of his mellifluous tones?

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth

It is not just the cancellations and the delays to electrification—it is the short trains, the short-staffed trains, the lack of reservations and the lack of catering. Great Western Railway is an absolute shambles. What on earth is the Minister going to do about it? Is he going to talk to the Secretary of State for Transport, as it is his responsibility?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

I am glad that you like my tie, Mr Speaker.

First, I point out that the Government are investing more in our railways than any Government since Victorian times. I accept that there may be some issues with the service, and I will happily arrange to meet GWR to raise the points that the hon. Gentleman made.