South Eastern Rail Franchise — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:19 pm on 27th November 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 4:19 pm, 27th November 2018

I understand that, but it is important to have a set of statistics that give us comparable data from franchise to franchise over time so we can measure performance. Dwell times obviously influence journey lengths, and they are nearly always to do with how quickly people are able to get on and off changes at a platform. That is to do with the capacity and the popularity of the network. I will look at the statistics. I want a set of customer statistics that we can trust so we can hold the rail companies to account. My job is to speak up for the passenger. We are spending a huge amount of public money, with £48 billion of investment in the next control period, which starts in April, so we need to focus that to ensure we deliver for passengers, including those represented by my hon. Friend.

We have talked about the new franchise, which has been designed with a specification to ensure that Southeastern joins up with the new Thameslink routes across Kent. That will ensure the best possible service for passengers, in terms of services, space on trains and reliability.

Questions have been asked about the timing of the award of the franchise. It will be made not this week, but in the new year. I will keep all colleagues who are served by the franchise posted on the timing. The reason for the delay is that the evaluation of the agreement for the next franchise has taken longer than anticipated because we wanted to ensure that passengers get the best deal possible.

I completely share my hon. Friend’s view that we need reliability. The new franchise recognises the importance of reliability to passengers. As such, bidders must jointly appoint an alliance director with Network Rail, who will be responsible for overseeing joint teams, including one focused solely on performance. That individual is expected to be the single public face of the railway to its passengers. The point about communication in the industry was made clearly. We all know that it has broken down at times, but this is a positive move to address those concerns. Bidders are being asked to work with Network Rail to develop proposals for a digital traffic management system to allow more trains to recover from minor delays and still meet the published timetable.

All those measures are expected to deliver a railway that is more reliable and accountable to the passenger. If my hon. Friend is interested, I would like to invite him to join me on a visit to the Kent Integrated Control Centre at Blackfriars—not too far away—to see the excellent joint working that is already going on between Southeastern and Network Rail. It will be enhanced and built on in future franchises. He may wish to consider that; we can discuss it outside this debate.

The specification for the new franchise is intended to allow room for an additional 40,000 passengers in the morning rush hour by December 2022. It is designed to tackle the crowding levels and uncomfortable conditions on services today.