The franchise agreement between the Department and train operators includes key performance benchmarks. The Department monitors each train operator against those levels, and that includes regular meetings with their senior management team at which performance figures are scrutinised and challenged. A range of enforcement mechanisms are available to the Department in the event of non-compliance.
Given their experience in recent years, many of my constituents are looking to the next operator of the Southeastern franchise to significantly improve timetabling performance. With that end in mind, will the Minister—whom I warmly welcome to his post—confirm that the Department still expects to announce the winning bidder this month and reassure passengers that the start of the new franchise will not be delayed?
I congratulate the Minister on taking up his post. My constituents could be forgiven for thinking that new Rail Ministers turn up more frequently than Southeastern trains.
Public performance measures are currently below their 2010 level. They are running below their target and are not due to reach it until 2025. Does that not show that privatisation is not working for my constituents, and it is time that Southeastern was brought under public control and the Mayor of London?
I would just highlight to the hon. Gentleman that the railways are carrying significantly more passengers. On his privatisation point, privatisation has turned around our railways: after decades of decline under British Rail, we have seen passenger numbers grow from 750 million to 1.7 billion. We have one of the most intensively used, fastest growing and safest railways in Europe. Privatisation is the answer.