With interventions that long we will really have to scamper. I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s argument. New rolling stock often brings with it some kind of teething period, as we have seen throughout the history of our rail network, but the bottom line is that we are seeing new trains deliver a better service.
The modernisation of the Great Western main line will improve more than 100 million passenger journeys each year and will stimulate economic growth from London, through the Thames valley, certainly through Cheltenham, to the Cotswolds, the west country and south Wales. I fully recognise how vital this service is in not only connecting people but driving the economy.
I also recognise that GWR’s performance last year was not good enough and fell well short of passenger expectations. As a result, GWR worked with partners across the industry and put in place a performance improvement plan, which, although there is of course still more to do, has seen GWR move from delivering 72% of trains between south Wales and Paddington on time six months ago to more than 90% today.
The December timetable change was successfully introduced. The industry significantly reduced planned timetable changes to minimise the risk of severe disruption, which has served to stabilise services and to improve timetable efficiency. In the future, we will stage timetable changes, rather than having one big-bang approach.
I am clear that I expect GWR to do everything it can to minimise cancellations and other disruptions to services. It agreed to and implemented a contractual performance improvement plan, which includes a wide variety of activities across the whole franchise area to improve performance for passengers, including matters under the control of Network Rail.