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South Western Railway and National Rail Review

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 22 November 2018

2. What steps his Department has taken to implement the recommendations of the independent review of South Western Railway and National Rail. (907765)

The South Western Railway performance review was published on 10 September 2018. It was independently chaired by Sir Michael Holden, and SWR and Network Rail are already working to implement its conclusions. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the former rail Minister met representatives from South Western Railway and the Network Rail Wessex route on 24 October to review their progress in implementing the performance review. They are on track to complete delivery of all the recommendations in that review, a number of which are already complete, and all short-term recommendations will be complete by the end of this year.

May I welcome my hon. Friend’s return to the Front Bench? Although my constituents will welcome the review, they are furious about the terrible disruption across South Western Railway on “mayhem Monday” this week, with seemingly no contingency plans and diabolical communication. Will my hon. Friend ensure that South Western Railway and Network Rail are held to account and made to learn lessons from this week’s mess, especially given the planned Network Rail engineering works this Sunday?

That incident was utterly unacceptable—there is no question about that—and I am not surprised that my hon. Friend’s constituents are furious about it. The Secretary of State spoke to Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, at 7 o’clock on Monday morning, and he made clear his dissatisfaction with the incident and demanded action. Network Rail has started an independent investigation to look at how the work was planned and delivered, and how the resulting disruption was managed. It has already made management changes, and new leadership on the Wessex route will start next week. South Western Railway also has lessons to learn, and it must review its communications with its customers. That part is critical and it failed on Monday. It must do far better.

Welcome back, but—I have had some pretty miserable experiences on that train line, but they are as nothing compared with how ghastly it must be to be rail Minister. Does my hon. Friend think that that might have contributed to his predecessor’s resignation?

That question is flawed, Mr Speaker. There is nothing ghastly at all about being the rail Minister, and I cannot understand where my right hon. Friend is coming from. I think the reasons for my predecessor’s departure are already documented elsewhere.

The Minister’s portfolio grows by the day. He previously served the House and the nation with distinction as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for buses, so from bus to rail really is an impressive CV, it has to be said. [Laughter.] Well, it is.