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Railways: Standards

Volume 464: debated on Monday 8 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps her Department is taking with train operators to improve (a) ticket pricing, (b) onboard facilities and (c) punctuality. (153313)

The Government regulate rail fares where operators are likely to have a high degree of market power. Increases in regulated fares are limited to RPI+1 per cent. and the Secretary of State for Transport recently announced that regulated fares will be capped at this level until at least 2014. Fares that are not subject to regulation are priced at the discretion of train operators. However, the recent White Paper, “Delivering a Sustainable Railway”, concluded that the fares structure requires simplification for the benefit of passengers and announced its intention to work with the rail industry to implement a simplified fares structure.

Facilities on board trains are a matter for train operators and the rolling stock companies. They are required to comply with relevant safety and accessibility regulations but decisions on other facilities are a matter for them.

The rail industry has continued sustained improvement in punctuality since 2002 and reliability is now back above pre-Hatfield levels. The recent White Paper announced the Government's intention to specify an overall improvement in train reliability (in terms of the public performance measure) of 92.6 per cent. by 2014, compared to a current industry reliability figure of 88.1 per cent. Franchise agreements with train operators contain performance standards that the operators have a contractual obligation to meet and the Department for Transport has sanctions that it can take to ensure that train operators meet their performance obligations.