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Passenger Rail Usage

Volume 634: debated on Thursday 18 January 2018

Rail passenger journeys have more than doubled in the past 20 years, and journey numbers are at their highest level since the 1920s.

Journeys on the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise fell for the first time last year as commuters shunned its shoddy services. The management contract given by DFT means the state has to shoulder a £90 million loss as a result, and Office of Rail and Road figures show that passenger numbers are starting to fall across the country. Is the franchise model sustainable if that continues?

Passengers are switching away from using traditional season tickets to using pay-as-you-go travel. They are choosing more flexible ticket options to suit their lifestyle. Changing travel behaviour may mean that historical assumptions about the number of journeys taken per season ticket are no longer appropriate. Although the number of passenger journeys is reported to have decreased recently, it does not necessarily mean that fewer people are using the railway network.

Violent attacks on trains have risen by 12.5% in the past year, and sexual offences on trains have doubled in the past five years. A Passenger Focus report in 2014 said that the most important factor identified by passengers is personal security on trains. Wales has guaranteed a guard on every train, and ScotRail has done likewise. When will this Secretary of State take responsibility for passenger safety on trains?

The introduction of new trains across almost the entire network, many of which will have CCTV, will play a significant part in ensuring that passengers can continue to travel safely.

There is a direct link between competition on the line, usage and lower fares. We welcome the fact that electrification is coming to Corby and I am grateful to Ministers for making that happen. Will they now look at options for extending Thameslink to Corby?

I would be happy to discuss that proposal with my hon. Friend. Electrification can play a part in improving passenger experience and reducing journey times, and it is one of the things the Department continues to look at closely.

One of the things deterring people from using the railways in the wintry weather we have had over the past few days is the failure of Northern Rail to properly grit some of the stations on its route, particularly Crossflatts in my constituency, making it hazardous for any passenger who wants to use those stations. Is there anything the Minister can do to intervene to make sure Northern Rail properly grits all its stations on the route so that people can use the railways safely?

I thank my hon. Friend for his suggestion. We continue to work closely with Network Rail to ensure the impact of severe weather on the system is minimised. Across road, rail and aviation, we want our transport system moving whatever the weather.

I always thought the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) had a substantial supply of grit all his own.

19. My constituents can barely get a seat on the train, yet this month they have had the shoulder the biggest fare increases in the country. Although Whitehall and rail bosses crow about improvements to stations such as London Bridge, can the Minister tell me how such projects will benefit passengers in northern towns like mine? (903382)

It is northern towns like the hon. Lady’s that are going to be some of the principal beneficiaries of the replaced train fleet across the country. Passengers in her constituency will have improved, more reliable, safer and more punctual services.