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East Coast Main Line

Volume 590: debated on Wednesday 14 January 2015

4. What steps the Government are taking to maintain existing Scottish rail services on and connected to the east coast main line. (906921)

The new deal the Government have signed for the east coast main line franchise with Virgin and Stagecoach will provide new services, new state-of-the-art trains with more capacity, and reductions in journey times.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He will know that the east coast main line is an important link through my constituency, but it has been reported that the new franchisee intends to drop one station south of Edinburgh from the line, raising fears that other stations may be dropped from the new service. Will he give an absolute assurance that, after the change of franchisee, services on the east coast main line will continue to stop at all the stations currently used?

I hoped that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would welcome the new franchise with its services to Falkirk and Stirling. There is no suggestion that there will be any reduction in services, but I am happy to make further inquiries for him on that point.

Will the Minister acknowledge that to increase the reliability, speed and efficiency of the service between Edinburgh and Aberdeen on the east coast main line, we need an upgrade of that line, not least the ending of the single track south of Montrose? What steps can he and/or the Scottish Government, or the two together, take to ensure that investment?

My right hon. Friend will be aware that we actively engage in discussions with the Scottish Government on important strategic transport projects that impact the whole United Kingdom, such as the Forth crossing. I am sure that colleagues in the Scottish Government will have heard his points, and I will certainly raise them further with them.

The Minister said that my constituents can have confidence that there will be no reduction in the service on the east coast main line, but can he explain why the Minister at the Department for Transport who has responsibility for rail franchises said that the service at Dunbar was to be reduced?

I think the hon. Lady was not listening to my previous answer. I undertook, on behalf of the hon. Member for Angus (Mr Weir), to investigate what has been said previously about the rail link north of Edinburgh, and I will also take up her point.

It is important that the train services that are meant to run actually do so. The Minister will know that services on the east coast main line were severely disrupted on 27 December and two days later as well. Will he meet colleagues to try to ensure that when there are disruptions on the line—they were no fault of East Coast, by the way—they are dealt with more effectively, passengers are given real alternative information, and the system is made more resilient to such disruption?

As a Member who represents a significant stop on the west coast main line at Lockerbie, I share the hon. Gentleman’s concerns about such disruption. I would be happy to meet him and any other colleagues who share those concerns.