Skip to main content

Railways: Private Sector

Volume 556: debated on Thursday 17 January 2013

11. What assessment his Department has made of the role of the private sector in the UK's railways. (137502)

Since privatisation, the number of passenger miles travelled has nearly doubled. Rail freight has increased by over 60%, the level of passenger satisfaction has risen by 10% in the last decade, and the level of punctuality has risen by nearly 14 %.

The delay in tendering for new longer rail franchises is holding back much-needed private sector investment in trains in East Anglia. Will the Government consider the proposals that have been drawn up to fast-track the provision of those urgently required new and upgraded trains?

The Government commissioned Lord Brown to advise on the future of franchising. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, his report has now been published, and the Government are looking at it. I understand that proposals have indeed been drawn up, and the Government will happily consider those proposals. I suggest that my hon. Friend should try to meet my right hon. Friend the Minister of State at the eastern rail summit, which will be held in the spring.

Do not the failures of the east coast and, now, the west coast franchise demonstrate that the policy of reusing a bad system is a bad one? Will the Minister please consider alternative models such as the mutualisation adopted by Welsh Water, which has led to increased private investment, efficient services, and reasonable charges for customers?

Throughout the country, privatisation and the franchising model have brought huge benefits to the system and to the rail traveller, and, as I said earlier, the level of passenger satisfaction has risen by more than 10% in the last decade.

The best way of assessing private sector rail franchises is to have a public sector comparator. Does the Minister therefore agree that we should consider retaining the east coast franchise as a public sector comparator, and look at having a local and regional service as a public sector comparator, too?

I disagree with that suggestion. The hon. Gentleman will remember that although subsidy was slightly lower when we had nationalised railways, underinvestment was a major feature of that era. Fares continued to rise and passenger satisfaction declined.