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Volume 733: debated on Thursday 8 June 2023

13. What comparative assessment he has made of the service delivered by Avanti’s rail timetable (a) now and (b) at the launch of that franchise. (905171)

Avanti began operating in December 2019 and within 16 weeks had transitioned on to an emergency measures agreement due to the covid-19 pandemic. Since then, the service provision has adjusted to align with demand and to balance taxpayer and passenger needs. I welcome recent performance improvements, with Avanti-caused cancellations down from 13.2% in January 2023 to 1.4% for the month of April.

Order. I was shouting to the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) not to come past the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) when he was in the middle of a question. Try again, Mr Fabricant.

Take 2. Mr Speaker, you might disagree with the Minister’s answer and say that the reliability of Avanti is still not that good. Nevertheless, my question is about services from Lichfield Trent Valley station. I wonder when services can be restored whereby we have a decent service on Sundays, particularly early Sunday evenings, both down to Euston and to the north. That used to exist before covid, but those services are no longer on the timetable.

Normal service resumed after a passenger crossed the line of sight in front of my hon. Friend. Anything that deprives my hon. Friend, and indeed his constituents, of the ability to get down from Lichfield is something that I will have to look at and help. I am meeting the managing director of Avanti today, as it turns out. I will raise my hon. Friend’s point and happily write back to him and do my best.

ScotRail, the Caledonian Sleeper, LNER and now TransPennine Express have all been nationalised. Increasingly, that is clearly the model that will deliver the reliable train services that customers need. What steps is the Minister taking to monitor the impact of nationalisation and whether it ought to be rolled out to the other franchises?

The steps I am taking on monitoring are looking at being able to put those operations back to the private sector. That is our preferred model. On TransPennine trains, I had a very good meeting with the interim chief executive, and I thank him for the work he is doing to stabilise. A plan is being looked at that will be delivered by next month, I believe. We currently have a situation where 50% of drivers are not trained up. What that tells us is that we need a lot more co-operation with the unions to get our drivers trained so that they can drive trains across all routes.