Rail Services: South-east London — [Sir Henry Bellingham in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:17 pm on 6th March 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 4:17 pm, 6th March 2019

I am coming on to the next franchise, but I should point out that we are seeing a fantastic change to the rolling stock right across our nation. We are going through a change that is equivalent to when we went from steam to diesel, with about 7,000 new vehicles entering service across our nation.

There were clear concerns about Southeastern’s performance. It has been improving recently and remains stable. Cancellations are reducing. A key change has been the improved collaboration between Southeastern and Network Rail. The latest statistics on the public performance measure indicate that 88.1% of services arrive at their final destination within five minutes of the planned arrival time. Today, it is 96%—I checked just before coming into the Chamber. However, we recognise that there is much to do, and we want the trains to be on time every time.

The issue of Lewisham signalling was raised, which is a significant piece of work. More than £130 million-worth of work will take place between now and Easter 2020. This Easter, £55 million will be invested in the Lewisham, Woolwich and Charlton area. In Easter 2020, £81 million will be invested in the Hither Green area. All of that will upgrade the signalling to provide a more robust service.

I cannot announce to the House when a decision will be made on the next franchise. The current franchise was extended in December, and the agreement will now expire, as was said, on 23 June. We are still in the process of evaluating the agreement for the next franchise. It has taken longer than anticipated because we want to ensure that passengers get the best possible deal. The invitation to tender is expected to bring some significant benefits in the new franchise, including longer trains, more space for passengers, increased availability of staff and improved communication with passengers, especially during periods of disruption. A comment regularly made whenever there is disruption is, “Just tell us what’s going on.” That is the voice of passengers, and it has not been as strong as it should have been.