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Rail Passengers

Volume 575: debated on Thursday 6 February 2014

We are driving efficiencies through our franchising programme and franchise management, and by encouraging co-operation across the industry. Working with the regulator, we have cut Network Rail’s costs by 40% since 2004, and it has a further efficiency target of just under 20% by 2019. We have also shown our commitment to giving value for money this year by capping the average regulated fare rise at the retail prices index only. That is the first time this has happened in 10 years.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, and I welcome all the measures to which he has referred. Last year, South West Trains paid the Department for Transport the highest premium per passenger kilometre of any operator but had the fourth highest level of overcrowding in London and the south-east. So what more can be done to deliver better value for money for passengers on South West Trains?

I fully accept the points about my hon. Friend’s constituents, and one thing we have been doing is increasing the availability of rolling stock. A number of new trains are on order which will serve his constituents, and I hope that that will bring some relief to the overcrowding. He rightly says that a number of commuters live in his area, and there are problems in providing the peak-hour trains for everybody who wants to travel then. That is why I want to see further encouragements to spread the morning rush hour.

Value for money for passengers travelling down to the south-west has always been an issue, but with the destruction of the rail line there is growing concern that the need to spend money following this climate problem will fall to passengers and they will find themselves picking up the bill. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Prime Minister’s promise made yesterday, which can be found at column 269 of Hansard, will be honoured and that the Government will take their share of the burden?

I am glad that the hon. Lady could join me at the meeting last night with Network Rail, and I am grateful to all the colleagues who attended at short notice. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will make a statement later this morning and give further details of the help that we will make available to those areas. No one can have seen the pictures of Dawlish yesterday without having tremendous sympathy or realising the scale of the problems that we have to overcome.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that passengers from my constituency on the West Anglia line could be more readily persuaded that there will be value for money if there were an early promise of new, not hand-me-down, rolling stock to replace the elderly type 317s on which they mostly have to rely?

I know that my right hon. Friend continues to make this case—he made it to me when I was in his constituency not many months ago—and I will bear in mind what he says. We are investing huge amounts in new rolling stock, including the new intercity express trains, the new trains for Crossrail and the other rolling stock orders that we have placed, which will benefit the travelling public.

15. The efficiency of the underground railway in London is the reason, we are told, why the changes will be made. While my constituents welcome the increased hours that the underground is likely to be open, they are concerned that it will mean fewer staff on duty overall. I have written to Transport for London to ask how many staff will be on duty, for example, at Angel, Islington at 3 am, but it has been unable to tell me. Will the Secretary of State help? Would he allow his teenage children on the underground at 3 am? Does he think that would be safe? (902428)

The hon. Lady says that her constituents rely on the underground, but I have yet to hear any Opposition Member condemn the strike action that is causing suffering to many millions of people in London and surrounding areas. It is all very well calling for extra capacity on the railways and the underground, but if strike action means that people cannot use them, it is ineffective.