The latest statistics published by the Office of Rail and Road for the first quarter of 2017-18 show a slight decline in the number of rail journeys, although passenger kilometres and revenue have increased since the previous year.
Since 2010, rail fares have risen by 27%, at twice the rate of wages, and the steepest fare hikes for five years are due in January. Meanwhile, passenger numbers are declining, and more and more of my constituents are being priced out of rail travel altogether. When will the Government accept that the whole system of rail franchising and private profiteering from our railways is utterly broken?
Opposition Members really should not try to draw conclusions from one quarter’s statistics to underpin their own ideological agenda. The simple fact is that far more passengers have been using our rail networks than ever before. I believe that privatised railways have been a success. The alternative that the hon. Gentleman has proposed would ensure that passengers were always at the back of the queue whenever any decision was made by any ghastly future Labour Government.
More passengers are using the great western main line than ever before, but we need more investment in that line to ensure that journeys are fast and resilient. If our journeys are to continue to be slow, however, will the Minister commit himself to extending the GSM-R mobile phone trial that is taking place in Scotland and the north of England to Devon and Cornwall?
The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to growing demand for journeys to the south-west. I believe that Great Western is doing a very good job at running the franchise. We are very supportive of the work of the Peninsula Rail Task Force, and we are trying to pull together all the work that is being done to ensure that we have a clear idea of what more we can do. I will certainly consider the hon. Gentleman’s idea carefully.