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Train Services

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 4 July 2007

7. What discussions he has had with First Great Western trains on the December 2007 timetable consultation. (146379)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend who has been tenacious in pressing the concerns of First Great Western's customers—especially those living west of Cardiff. My predecessor met First Great Western on 20 June, and I will continue to follow developments closely.

When my hon. Friend meets First Great Western, will he ensure that the consultation being undertaken is a real one, not a paper exercise? For too long in south-west Wales, we have fed information to First Great Western, but nothing happens. We are a little tired of that and we want consultation to take into consideration our needs and aspirations.

My hon. Friend continues to be a powerful advocate on behalf of rail passengers in Wales, and I can assure her that we will press hard for this to be a meaningful consultation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to First Great Western, seeking assurances on these issues, and our talks with First Great Western will continue. We intend to ensure that the consultation is meaningful.

The fourth prize in a recent charity auction in my constituency was a pair of First Great Western first class return tickets to London. I do not think that I dare travel First Great Western, but if the Minister would like them, I will gladly give them to him.

I do travel regularly on First Great Western—every week—and on Arriva trains as well. It is unacceptable that First Great Western’s performance in the third quarter of 2006-07 was the lowest of all the long-distance operators. In a recent passenger focus survey, 72 per cent. of First Great Western passengers expressed their dissatisfaction. However, First Great Western has given commitments, and we will continue to press it for massive investment in the routes that it serves through to south Wales and look for the results. Let me also pay tribute to the Welsh Assembly, which, among other things, is investing more than £50 million to enhance capacity in the Valley Lines network. We must not forget about the feeder network either.