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Railway Stations

Volume 551: debated on Thursday 18 October 2012

A major programme of station improvements is under way, with several key stations, such as Birmingham New Street, being significantly enhanced. We are also continuing to fund improvements through the national stations improvement programme, the Access for All programme and the station commercial project facility. In addition, enhancements are planned at stations as part of franchise commitments.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. The new hourly service on the East Suffolk line starts on 10 December. That is welcome news, although unfortunately the stations at Beccles and Lowestoft remain in poor condition. Will the Minister encourage Network Rail to work with Greater Anglia and Suffolk county council to upgrade the two stations and ensure that the necessary line maintenance is carried out so that maximum speeds can be achieved and that the benefits of the new service can be fully realised?

Yes is the simple answer. The train operator has a commitment to refresh all its stations before 2014. It hopes that the work will include Lowestoft, Woodbridge and the stations in between and be completed before the service enhancement. The bus-rail interchange improvement at Lowestoft station will result in an improved waiting environment for users. Network Rail is also looking to develop a commercial scheme that could provide improvements at the station.

May I seek an assurance from the Minister that any future tendering process for the west coast main line will consider investment in Wolverhampton station? We have recently benefited from investment in the Wolverhampton interchange; the bus station in particular has been a real boon to Wolverhampton passengers. I am anxious that that should continue for Wolverhampton train station.

I was pleased to be able to open the new bus station in Wolverhampton, which represents a significant improvement for my hon. Friend’s area. I recognise and am sympathetic to the case that he is making. Obviously, a review of the west coast main line franchise is under way and it would be improper to speculate on that. Nevertheless, he makes a good case, which will be taken into account.

Many colleagues on both sides of the House are looking forward to railway station improvements as a result of the west coast main line franchise. All of us in the all-party group on the west coast main line, of which I am joint chair, are disappointed that we have arrived at this position. A journey for a commuter or other rail traveller involves the experience not only on the train, but at the railway station. There is also the issue of improved parking facilities at railway stations. The Government need to ensure that those issues will be included in any future franchises—and perhaps there could be a little investment from the Government themselves.

As I mentioned a moment ago, a major programme of station improvement is under way, and that is not affected by the franchise reviews. The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about particular stations on the west coast, and I am sure that it will be taken into account. The franchise process will emerge stronger as a result of the reviews now taking place.

Hounslow cycling network, whose representatives I am meeting today, has been promoting the ease and safety of cycling. Will the Minister confirm what plans he has to improve the provision of cycling racks at railway stations?

That is very much part of the work undertaken in the Department through the door-to-door journeys initiative, which I have begun. In addition, I recently allocated £7 million to the cycle-rail working group to improve facilities for cyclists at stations. We look to franchise deliverers to enhance cycle provision as a consequence of franchises that are let.