GWR and Network Performance — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:06 am on 5th February 2019.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water) 10:06 am, 5th February 2019

I congratulate my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty on securing this debate. Great Western needs to answer questions not just on the Welsh lines, but on the service to the far south-west. It was good to hear from Derek Thomas about Great Western’s service to the far south-west, but I am afraid I am not drinking the Kool-Aid in the way that he is. We need huge improvements.

Today marks five years since Dawlish was washed away. We all remember the hanging Peruvian rope bridge images. Five years on, there have been sound bites aplenty, and we have had press releases and promises coming out of our ears. If we could lay those press releases next to each other to form a railway, we would have the best train line in the world, but we cannot; we need the money. I really hoped that there would have been a funding announcement to coincide with the five-year anniversary, to show that Ministers get it. Instead, we seem to have half-cancelled visits, planning applications submitted without the funding to go along with them and a lack of understanding about when the money will come.

The far south-west needs and wants its fair share of rail funding. The programme for which Network Rail has submitted a planning application seems to be a good step forward, which would improve not only Great Western services but CrossCountry services that use that piece of track. We need the Minister or the Secretary of State to announce the money. They do not need to come to Devon to do that; they could make their announcement in Whitehall, or the Minister could make it today. All we need is confirmation that the money will come. To date, we have not had that, and the lack of funding for our train line grates on people in the far south-west.