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Rail Investment

Volume 532: debated on Thursday 15 September 2011

5. What assessment he has made of the importance of the voice of the passenger to decisions about rail investment; and if he will make a statement. (71832)

The Government recognise the importance of passenger opinion to their decisions about rail investment. The National Passenger Survey produces a network-wide assessment of passenger views on rail travel, which is used to inform the refranchising process alongside franchise-specific consultations. Other work by Passenger Focus, the independent advocate for rail users, also provides valuable input to decision making.

When I meet Slough’s rail commuters next Tuesday, they will tell me that they are fed up about the £170 increase in their fares next year, and fed up that three of the 10 most overcrowded trains in the country serve Slough. We are to have no new carriages, the Minister is dithering about whether we will be able to use Oyster cards—which will help to relieve the position—and Crossrail, although welcome, will slow down Slough’s service. What has the Minister to say to the commuters whom I am meeting on Tuesday?

I recommend that the hon. Lady say that this Government are fully committed to a major investment programme for our railways, much of which will benefit her constituents, including electrification, the intercity express programme, the provision of new rolling stock in the future, and improving the overall reliability of the line for her constituents, with the bottleneck at Reading station being dealt with. We are taking the concerns of the hon. Lady’s constituents very seriously. We recognise the anxiety about rail fares, but we are determined to get the costs of the railways down so that we can give better value for money to passengers and taxpayers.

Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the latest assessment of the High Speed 2 consultation that closed in July? Will she also reassure my constituents, all of whom are rail passengers, that every single one of their views will be taken into account?

The Government take the process for designing the future of high-speed rail very seriously. All representations made to the consultation will be carefully considered and an announcement will be made later this year.