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Inter-City Services

Volume 86: debated on Monday 11 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport if, when he next meets the chairman of British Rail, he will raise with him the performance of British Rail's inter-city travel.

The day-to-day performance of the inter-city sector is a matter for the railways board.

Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister cares about British Rail's inter-city performance. Is he aware that under British Rail's 1986 inter-city timetable trains will generally take longer to reach their destination, stop at more intermediate stations and that there will be less choice for travellers? Is he further aware that inter-city trains are overcrowded and that, more often than not, buffet and restaurant facilities are not available? Does he agree that that is unsatisfactory? Will he take up the matter urgently with the chairman of British Rail?

We certainly care about the level of service on inter-city trains. The hon. Gentleman complains about inter-city trains stopping at intermediate stations. I hope that he observes the contradiction in his remarks, because the additional stops provide an additional service for members of the public who want to travel on inter-city services.

British Rail is examining the possibilities of more private sector activity in the provision of buffet services. I have no doubt that that will lead to the improvements for which the hon. Gentleman is looking. I congratulate him on his appointment to the Front Bench as Opposition spokesman for health.

When my hon. Friend next meets the chairman of British Rail to discuss inter-city services, will he take up the possibility of cyclists continuing to be able to take their cycles on inter-city trains, since that facility is threatened? Will he also suggest that buffets should be open from the time that a train departs, not 30 minutes later after card playing has ended?

The problem of cycles on inter-city trains is one of space for accommodation. I shall write to my hon. Friend further about that. I shall draw the attention of the chairman of BR to my hon. Friend's words about the opening and closing of buffet services.

Is the Minister aware that the chairman of British Rail has categorically refused to give cheap early-day travel to passengers travelling from Stoke on Trent, even though he gives that facility to passengers from Manchester and Stockport on the same line? Does he agree that that is extraordinary discrimination by the chairman of British Rail, and will he take up the matter with him?

I shall draw the chairman's attention to what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I am sure that it is not British Rail's intention to discriminate against his constituents.

Will my hon. Friend raise with the chairman of British Rail the question of punctuality, particularly the punctuality of trains at intermediate stations rather than termini? I am sure that he will discover that the punctuality at such stations is very bad indeed.

One of the objectives set for British Rail by the Secretary of State was a reliable, attractive and punctual service. British Rail recognises that it still has some way to go. Since the remodelling of Crewe station there has been some improvement on the west coast main line. I recognise that my hon. Friend's campaign on behalf of his constituents is desirable. I shall draw the chairman's attention to what he said about timekeeping at intermediate stations.

Does the Minister accept that inter-city punctuality tables—at least, the latest ones—are the worst for almost 20 years, that despite what he has just said the timekeeping of trains from Euston on the west coast main line is deplorable, that morale in the railway industry is at rock bottom and that, thanks to the stewardship of the Secretary of State, the right hon. Gentleman has proved himself unfit to take down engine numbers let alone undertake responsibility for a once great industry?

I so much regret the fact that the hon. Gentleman turns up at every Question Time, no matter what the questions are about, and carps about British Rail instead of praising it for what it has achieved. It runs more trains at over 100 miles an hour than any other railway system in the world. As for timekeeping, the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong when he says that it is the worst ever. There has been a significant improvement in recent months.