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London Midland

Volume 556: debated on Thursday 17 January 2013

10. What assessment he has made of the level of service provided by London Midland trains in the last six months; and if he will make a statement. (137501)

The Department is continually assessing London Midland’s performance, and holds monthly review meetings with its senior management. As the Secretary of State announced on 20 December 2012, London Midland’s performance between September and December breached its contractual benchmark. The Department has therefore negotiated measures with London Midland to ensure that a reliable passenger service is restored, as well as a £7 million package of benefits for passengers.

If there have been improvements, most of my constituents have not really noticed them. They have been stranded at Four Oaks—and believe me, Mr. Speaker, you would not want to be stranded at Four Oaks—hanging around for an hour and a half waiting for another London Midland train to take them back to Lichfield. How bad does it actually have to get before the Minister decides to take away the service and readvertise the contract?

I shall try not to be stuck at Four Oaks, where there is evidently a problem that limits the ability to run through trains. However, we are continuing to monitor London Midland’s performance, and if it breaches further benchmarks, we will take further action. I can say now that it is expected to make losses for the remainder of its franchise period. In my view, given that it created this mess, it is up to London Midland to sort it out on behalf of the taxpayer.

May I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that his question should relate purely to the subject of London Midland trains? [Laughter.]

If passengers are delayed on London Midland, and indeed on other lines—[Laughter]—they are entitled to compensation. However, when London Midland provides such compensation, it takes the form of paper vouchers, which, as a constituent of mine has pointed out, cannot be exchanged online. That is inconvenient, and it means that they cannot obtain the full benefit of lower fares. Will the Minister look into that when the Government review the fares system?

I am happy to say that that point has been raised by a number of Members, and that we are looking into it. People should not be discriminated against on the basis of the method that they use to buy their tickets.