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Trains (Catering Services)

Volume 489: debated on Tuesday 10 March 2009

5. When he next expects to meet representatives of train operating companies to discuss catering on trains. (261708)

The Secretary of State for Transport has no plans to meet representatives of train operating companies to discuss catering on trains.

That is a pity. Does the Minister share my anger and dismay that at a time when train operators on the continent are extending and expanding catering services, companies here are doing quite the reverse? Is he aware that First Capital Connect has cut the trolley service on the King’s Lynn line and that the Norwich line is about to lose its restaurant car? Is not that very short-sighted at a time when train companies should be trying to attract new customers?

I hope that all train operators will bear in mind the travelling experience in the round for all passengers, particularly on long-distance journeys, through the provisions that they make for the travelling public. The main concerns for us and the travelling public will be punctuality, reliability overcrowding and affordable fares. That is where we have concentrated our efforts as a Government, and we have ensured that we deliver in that way.

When the Minister next speaks to London Midland about catering, could he also talk to it about the lack of punctuality, the appalling performance and the dreadful conditions on Milton Keynes Central station since it has closed the travel centre and not sufficiently staffed—

Speaking from the nationalist Bench, East Anglia branch, could I ask the Minister to look at the franchise of National Express East Anglia, not only relative to its catering obligations, which are clearly laid down in the franchise, but also to the fact that it is sacking 300 workers in total?

In the franchise provision for National Express East Anglia, there is a requirement for a catering facility based on a trolley service, and I understand that National Express is providing over and above that requirement through an at-seat service for first-class passengers. I take on board and note the hon. Gentleman’s comments, but National Express East Anglia is meeting the requirements of the franchise agreement and going above them.