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 will of course be delighted to meet my hon. Friend. We will set up that meeting promptly.

Teresa Pearce and others asked how we will deliver more capacity. It will be through longer trains. The new trains will be able to carry more passengers because we are increasing the number of the longer 10 and 12-car trains at the busiest times. First-class accommodation will be converted to standard class on commuter services to increase space for passengers further. That builds on the point that this is a hugely busy and hugely successful commuter line.

Incremental changes are being sought to today’s timetable that will deliver a more operationally robust daily plan. For example, we are reducing instances where services must cross at congested track layouts, such as those at Lewisham, which are a significant cause of passenger delay. The intention is that the next franchise will deliver a more regular service where possible. The key thing we are trying to get across is that this is about predictably and reliability. I know full well that passengers need a service they can rely on, and that is our plan.

Hon. Members will be interested to know that Sunday services will be enhanced and will be comparable to the level of service on Saturdays—a significant increase from today. There will be a Sunday service on the Bromley North branch for the first time in a considerable number of years. I hope that is of interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and the constituents he serves. Services on the Medway line will also be improved, and an additional two trains per hour will run to Ashford via Tonbridge outside the peaks. That will allow Hastings services to miss some stops to improve journey times. I know from my visit to Hastings that that is a key passenger aspiration.

A significant amount of work is being done to deliver an enhanced railway. It is clear that travellers are impatient to see the new services. I fully understand that. We are focused on placing the passenger at the heart of everything we do and working with the existing management of the franchise to maintain and improve its performance before the new franchisee is announced.

The new franchise will offer the passenger very significant benefits. I have urged my officials to ensure we get those benefits as soon as possible. Everybody is impatient for them; that is certainly a message that I have taken from this debate. I thank my hon. Friend and all colleagues who have contributed to the debate. Their contributions have been heard and understood, and we will take them on board as we work to make this rail franchise better.

Question put and agreed to.