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Railway Stations

Volume 535: debated on Thursday 10 November 2011

In addition to planned improvements to local railway stations as part of franchise commitments, the Government are funding improvements through the national stations improvement programme, Access for All programme and the station commercial project facility. We intend to continue doing so.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He will know that our local railway network in Greater Manchester is incredibly well used, but I am often struck by the poor condition of our stations, particularly the limited accessibility, as lack of step-free access at stations such as Mosley Street, Broadbottom and Newton for Hyde often forces people to travel further down the line than they would like simply to change platforms and come back on the other side. Good quality public transport should of course be available to all, so I ask the Minister to make that a priority for his Department in future.

I am happy to confirm, as I mentioned a moment ago, that we are continuing with the Access for All programme. The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that Stalybridge station in his constituency is part of that programme and that construction work is expected to start on site in June 2013 as part of a £1.8 million project.

As you know, Mr Speaker, last night I presented a petition signed by 1,200 residents of Bradford-on-Avon hoping to keep their station’s ticket office, where footfall was over 400,000 last year. In the light of the McNulty report, will the Minister review category E stations for possible upgrade to category D, so that they would at least retain their ticket offices for part-time hours?

As my hon. Friend will know, the Minister of State is involved in a fares and ticketing review. We are determined to ensure that people are able to buy tickets and access the railway network in a fair way, which might include ticket offices, better arrangements for automatic sales and access through the internet. The point he has made is a valid one and I will pass it on to the Minister of State.

Does the Minister recognise the importance of passenger experience in travelling and that that includes having staff at railway stations to provide safety and reassurance as well as a good service?

Yes, we do. We are very interested in safety at stations for the reasons the hon. Lady rightly mentions. She will be aware of the secure stations programme. Around 90% of the railway network has been designated as having secure stations, which is well over 1,000 stations. We take that very seriously and want to ensure not only that stations are accessible physically, but that people have no fear of using the railway network so that we maximise the number of people who are able to travel by train.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House how many category E station ticket offices will be closed as a result of the Government’s plans for the future of the rail industry?

As I mentioned a moment ago, we are looking at ticketing and fares generally as part of the review we are undertaking, but no decision has been made on the closure of any category E stations. That matter will be considered in the round to ensure that we retain proper access to the railway network. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady keeps asking, “How many?” I have just indicated that no decisions have been taken, so the answer so far is none.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman the answer: 675 stations will lose their ticket offices as a result of his plans, while another 302 will see their opening hours cut. With passengers facing up to a 13% hike in the cost of their tickets in January, does he understand that his plans to replace staff with machines will make it even harder to get the best deal and are totally out of touch with the public?

It is unfortunate that the hon. Lady asks her supplementary question without listening to my answer to her first. Indeed, she seems to be reinventing her party’s railways policies. The chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies accused the hon. Lady’s leader of suffering from “amnesia” and of displaying—these are his words—“rank hypocrisy” when it came to Labour’s railways policy, so she ought to examine her own policy and her own history before she starts attacking the Government.

Order. A word cannot be made orderly simply by putting it into someone else’s mouth, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw it—straight away.