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Seating-only Policies: Capacity and Ticket Prices

Volume 659: debated on Thursday 2 May 2019

3. What assessment he has made of the potential effect on (a) capacity and (b) ticket prices on the rail network at peak times in the event of the introduction of seating-only policies. (910665)

The Department has made no recent assessment of the potential effect of the introduction of seating-only policies on our national rail network. I understand that Virgin set out a number of proposals in its submission to the Williams rail review, including seating-only services. Those will of course be considered by Mr Williams and his team as their work progresses.

When do the Minister or his officials propose to have discussions with Virgin Trains? There is a great deal of concern that this could affect Virgin employees and, equally, pensioners’ freedom to travel, so I hope the Minister will discuss this with Virgin.

I look forward to the Williams review’s response to Virgin’s submission. I see Virgin’s point, but I have to say that the turn-up-and-go principle that has always been part of our rail network is important and, I think, valued by passengers. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point about the impact on passengers and those who work on the railways, but the underlying turn-up-and-go principle is a fundamental part of our rail network, and we would only challenge that with extreme care.

Far too many rail passengers have to stand, which is especially inconvenient for those on lengthy journeys. Many other countries successfully run double-decker trains. Why do we not, with a bit of vision and ambition, introduce double-decker trains on our network?

My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion. Our challenge is that we have a very old infrastructure, including many cuttings, tunnels and bridges. Cuttings are perhaps less of a problem, but the tunnels and bridges would be more of a challenge. The height capacity, which also impacts on freight, is being considered, but the way to deliver the capacity that my hon. Friend seeks for his constituents and that we want is perhaps not through that route, which would require huge interventions and a large capital budget, but to use other forms of technology and development.