Rail Service Frequency

Transport – in the House of Commons on 2nd July 2020.

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Photo of Suzanne Webb Suzanne Webb Conservative, Stourbridge

What steps his Department is taking to increase the frequency of rail services following reductions in those services as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The rail industry will deliver an uplift in services on Monday 6 July to respond to an increase in post-4 July demand. Service levels will be close to 85% of pre-covid levels.

Photo of Suzanne Webb Suzanne Webb Conservative, Stourbridge

The Prime Minister is a big fan of buses, just as I am a big fan of trains—I do not make model trains yet, though—so I am proud to support a Government who are investing £48 billion into railways, giving them the biggest upgrade since Victorian times. Will my hon. Friend assure me that such funding will be used to ensure that communities across all parts of the country such as mine in Stourbridge, have access to reliable, punctual railways?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I had already noted that my hon. Friend has a passion for rail as she has sponsored a bid to reinstate a railways fund for the “Stourbridge Dasher,” which I look forward to examining shortly. Yes, the Government are investing £48 billion in our railways in the period 2019 to 2024—that figure does not include HS2—with the intention to use that money to deliver a reliable rail service that helps to level up our country.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

I pay tribute to our wonderful rail workers, who have played a vital role in keeping our nation moving in the midst of a pandemic. As we come out of lockdown, I welcome the Government’s plans to increase the frequency of rail services as, indeed, I wholeheartedly welcomed the Government’s plans and efforts to effectively nationalise our rail services at the start of lockdown. It is disappointing to note, however, that other operators such as Hull Trains have been refused the exact same support from the Government, thereby risking hundreds of jobs.

There is no point in having lots of trains running if people are not using those services because they fear it is not safe to do so. Given the Government’s mixed messaging, with weakening social distancing requirements on the one hand and patchy compliance with the new face-covering law on the other, how does the Minister propose to protect passengers and rail workers while restoring public confidence in our network?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Front Bench. We have had a conversation already and I look forward to working with him. Our railways are a very important part of bringing our nation’s economy back. It is quite straightforward: we will have a reliable train service that will be one of the cleanest on the planet. We want to get customers back when they are able to travel, given the appropriate guidance. Working together, I think we can do that.