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Rugby Union: Twickenham Railway Station

Volume 727: debated on Wednesday 18 May 2011

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to ensure that Twickenham railway station is fit for purpose in time for the Rugby Union World Cup in 2015.

My Lords, Twickenham station already serves passengers attending large rugby events on a regular basis. It is for Stagecoach South West Trains as the train and station operator at Twickenham to work with the British Transport Police, the RFU and the local authority to manage passenger flows at the station during special events. The operator has a significant amount of experience of major rugby internationals that take place at the stadium.

I thank my noble friend for that Answer. However, how does he suggest that a very full platform that is not long enough to take longer trains will cope sufficiently with heavy congestion and use? Would the world cup not be a wonderful opportunity for extending it? Could any major sporting event not be seen as an opportunity to expand and improve the infrastructure? I draw my noble friend’s attention to the Rugby League World Cup in 2013. Are there any infrastructure plans or increased funding guarantees for that?

My Lords, in response to my noble friend’s second question, I would not normally expect the business case, the BCR or the transport infrastructure project to be significantly affected by an existing sporting venue. In response to my noble friend’s first question, it is envisaged that many of the eight-coach trains that currently operate into London Waterloo will be lengthened to 10-coach trains by 2014 under the HLOS. Platforms will similarly be lengthened at busier stations, such as Twickenham, providing substantial extra capacity at major events such as the Rugby Union World Cup. There are well established plans to manage passenger flows on to the platform so that there are not too many passengers on it at the same time.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that it is not much good trying to encourage more people to travel by rail with improved station facilities if at the same time the Government are driving some people away by agreeing to fare increases way above what is already the Government-induced high rate of inflation?

The Government are just about to commence a study of the whole fare structure of the railway to address exactly the problem the noble Lord has identified.

Is my noble friend aware that one of the problems at Twickenham is, frankly, that too many people have had too much to drink? Is he also aware that whereas at Murrayfield and the Millennium stadium, no alcohol is sold while a match is taking place, at Twickenham it is available in the bars during matches? Will he have a word with the RFU to stop that because it goes against the interests of anyone who wants to go and watch a match, and afterwards people might be a little more sober?

My Lords, I am not completely sure that that is a matter for my department. However, I also understand that, ironically, although rugby union is a contact sport, it actually experiences less bad behaviour than football matches.

My Lords, today is the 776th day since Governments on either side have ordered any new rolling stock for our railways. In circumstances where noble Lords in this Chamber will have found it extraordinarily difficult to get on to trains, and many people are crowded out, how are we going to show the world that we have a railway that is worth using unless some new rolling stock is ordered very urgently?