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South-east London Metro Routes

Volume 639: debated on Thursday 19 April 2018

14. What assessment he has made of the reliability of rail services on metro routes in south-east London. (904823)

I echo your good wishes to my hon. Friend, Mr Speaker.

All train operators must deliver the performance benchmarks set out in the franchise agreements that cover all their passenger services. In respect of Southeastern’s metro service, its public performance measure has improved from 87% to nearly 89% over the past year.

Is the Minister not concerned, first, that many of the regular commuters on our line do not regard the performance measures as reflecting reality, particularly in the rush hour, and, secondly, that Network Rail only a couple of days ago published a suggestion that performance will actually deteriorate over the next coming years and will not pick up again until 2024? I would like our wedding guests to come on the train, but I do not think I can advise them to do so at the moment; does the Minister agree that the situation is wholly unacceptable, and what will he do about it?

We are working closely with Network Rail to ensure punctual and reliable services on the network. We are ensuring it is doing everything it possibly can to maintain and build upon the current improving levels of performance. My hon. Friend mentioned the performance targets: the operator will be required as part of the next franchise arrangements to publish on its website in relation to each reporting period its performance against the following metrics: cancellation figures, short formation figures, and now, critically, timing to three minutes, rather than the previous performance targets.

Mr Speaker, may I associate myself and my hon. Friends with your kind words to my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), and wish him all the best?

When I arrived at my station this morning, they were handing out free copies of fiction: the Southeastern rail timetable. It is fiction because of not just the performance of Southeastern, but the poor infrastructure that we have to endure. We have spent £1 billion upgrading London Bridge, and it is a magnificent project, but unfortunately we have seen broken rails and the breakdown of signals last week and the week before, and there was another stranded train outside St Johns station on 5 April. This is not good enough: we need to upgrade the infrastructure around London Bridge, otherwise all the money will have been wasted.

In the next franchise period we will ensure that performance in quality is an absolute focus for the new operator. When that is in place moving towards next year, the new franchisee will adopt the new measures we have proposed as part of the move towards control period 6. The use of a public performance measure that allows services to arrive up to five minutes late at end destination will be replaced by timed to three, or T3, and that measure will be used for the services along this route.

Like my colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), I wish the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) all the best.

After years of disruption due to the London Bridge rebuild, passengers discovered last week that Greenwich line evening services will not be of the frequency previously advertised after May because, according to Southeastern, it does not have enough drivers. Can Ministers do anything about this frankly risible situation?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing that concern to my attention, and I will discuss it with Southeastern.