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Spare Parts (Rail Network)

Volume 580: debated on Thursday 8 May 2014

Rolling stock spares are a matter for the train operators. They are required to have arrangements in place to maintain their leased trains so that they can deliver the performance level defined in their franchise agreement. I am aware of the specific problem of replacement wheels on my hon. Friend’s line.

Services on the Felixstowe to Ipswich line were disrupted for a number of reasons, one of which was the lack of availability of wheel sets around the entire network. I recognise that this is a matter for the rail companies to sort out themselves, but I hope that the Department can have a word with strategic partners, including with leasing companies and manufacturers.

Abellio Greater Anglia is well aware of the problem and has given us assurances that it is on top of it. The bad weather not only caused flood damage to some units, but caused a number of cases where brakes locked up and caused flats on the wheels so, instead of being able to re-profile the wheels perhaps six times during their life at 150,000-mile intervals, some of them were damaged beyond repair, which meant that there was a short-term shortage of those components.

Another important part of the rail infrastructure is the overhead wire system. When will the Minister take action to ensure the improvement of overhead wires on the east coast main line to avoid disruptions to services, of which I am sure he is well aware, given his journeys to London?

As somebody who uses the east coast main line regularly, I am aware that we have regular problems with overhead lines. If a line is brought down by a fast moving train, it can take some considerable time to repair. That is in marked contrast to the performance of High Speed 1, where we had no disruption, despite the bad weather over the winter, and we can expect similar very high levels of performance from High Speed 2.