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Station Infrastructure

Volume 572: debated on Thursday 19 December 2013

6. What recent assessment he has made of Network Rail’s performance in maintaining and upgrading station infrastructure. (901725)

The Government are continuing to fund station improvements and upgrades through four programmes: the national stations improvement programme, the Access for All programme, the new stations fund and the station commercial project facility. In addition, we are funding improvements at several major stations. Network Rail is funded by the Government through each control period to maintain and renew station assets, and its performance on station conditions is monitored by the Office of Rail Regulation.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. For too long under the previous Government very little was done to improve Gloucester station. Under this Government’s scheme we have had welcome improvements, including lifts for the elderly and disabled, and yesterday Network Rail confirmed that for the first time ever a canopy will be installed over our platform bridge. I am grateful for that Christmas good news. However, there is more to be done. Will the Secretary of State please confirm that the Government will continue to invest in our stations and will welcome well-argued cases for improvements in overall city centre regeneration schemes?

My hon. Friend is right that the Access for All programme provided a footbridge and two lifts at Gloucester station, costing £1.7 million. That is a small but important way in which we can help some of the older stations to be maintained and to be available for all people to access. We are seeing a major regeneration of our stations. Some of our major stations are now destinations in their own right. St Pancras station, for example, used to be a place where people did not want to spend more than five minutes, but it is now a destination in its own right.

I am due to meet the Secretary of State’s colleagues in the new year to discuss Finsbury Park station. Can he assure me that his Department is intervening to ensure that both Network Rail and Transport for London invest enough money in that dangerously overcrowded station to ensure that it is fit for purpose and good for the future, rather than overcrowded and out of date, which it is at the moment?

I will obviously ask for a report on the points the hon. Gentleman has made. I am in regular contact with Transport for London and the Mayor of London, who continually make the case for greater investment in London. I have to try to balance that with the requests for station improvements from the rest of the country. The hon. Gentleman makes a strong point about the station he has referred to.

In July I asked for Ministers’ support to hasten the installation of lifts at Chippenham station. Now that the coalition Government have provided funding for an additional 80 services a week from that station and Wiltshire council has finally granted planning permission, when can we hope that Network Rail will be able to make step-free access at Chippenham station a reality?

A lot of money has been given to Network Rail for those improvements, but rather than trying to reply to my hon. Friend now, I think that it would be better if I wrote to him.

May I take this opportunity to wish you, Mr Speaker, and the whole House a very merry Christmas? Following his announcement this week, will the Secretary of State launch a full consultation on Network Rail’s future debt and governance structures to ensure best value for the taxpayer and full accountability to passengers?

I am keen that Network Rail should continue to get the levels of investment that we have set aside for it and that nothing should put a question mark over that. I think that the hon. Lady needs to have a conversation with the shadow Chancellor, who today announced that the Labour party will be having a zero-based look at all that funding. I can say from this Dispatch Box that I can secure the funding for Network Rail, but I do not think that the hon. Lady can say that for her party.