Railways: Update - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:12 pm on 29th November 2017.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 4:12 pm, 29th November 2017

I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, and congratulate her on some of the things in it. Now is the time to see what can be and will be delivered. It sets out in a very positive way the contestability of some of Network Rail’s costs and how other contractors can do enhancements. I like the list of new openings and enhancements, some of which I have been involved in. I notice that something dear to my heart and that of my noble friend the Chief Whip is missing from the list—the reopening of the Lewes to Uckfield line. Perhaps the Minister can say why it is not included.

My biggest concern is the structural issue of the east coast main line, which is mentioned a lot in the report. It is easy to say that having the passenger and the Network Rail operators work together is a good thing, but there are open access operators and freight. I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group on that line. The passenger figures for the open access operators on the east coast main line are very positive, so competition has brought benefits, not just to the traffic on the main line but to some of the other places served. Can the Minister explain how what the Government are trying to create as a big monopoly is going to protect the interests of the other open access operators and freight on a vital artery?