My hon. Friend knows full well that I absolutely understand the difficulties that his constituents have faced. I hope he will accept that performance has improved over the past year, since the height of industrial action. We have had compensation arrangements in place, including the special compensation for past disruption, which saw £13.6 million paid to 58,000 passengers. We have also taken steps forward on the ways to implement Delay Repay and will keep the situation under review.
On 2 December 2016, the Secretary of State said in a written statement:
“Southern passengers have suffered from unprecedented and sustained disruption to their journeys during 2016”,
and offered some very welcome compensation for season ticket holders. The problem is that Southern passengers suffered from unprecedented and sustained disruptions to their journeys during 2017 as well. In fact, the punctuality figures for the most recent quarter are even worse. When are my constituents going to be compensated this year?
As I said, additional compensation measures are in place now. The issues that network currently faces are all to do with the condition of the infrastructure. My hon. Friend will know that we have just announced two major closures to allow upgrade works to take place, and there is a substantial ongoing programme of investment in that route, which I hope will make a significant difference.
Bedford commuters will lose their fast peak train services in May. Many now do not know how they will balance work with their childcare arrangements. Does the Minister agree that Stagecoach should compensate these people and rail users who, by the Government’s admission, have borne the pain of the changes to the rail network timetable?
I cannot promise—I wish I could—no change and no disruption as a result of major investment programmes. The hon. Gentleman will know that the combination of the upgrade to the midland main line and the Thameslink programme must mean, for an interim period, changes to services. There will in fact be more seats from Bedford in peak hours. Of course, many of the east midlands trains arriving at Bedford are already full, so I absolutely regret the fact that we have to inconvenience passengers, but we cannot upgrade and improve the network without taking some difficult decisions.