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Publicly Owned Rail Operators

Volume 685: debated on Thursday 3 December 2020

Whether he plans to allow publicly owned rail operators to bid for future rail contracts under the proposed concession model. (909722)

Even prior to this pandemic, disabled people reported that work opportunities were out of reach due to the lack of accessibility on transport. What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that disabled people are not prevented from accessing and staying in employment because of the really pressing accessibility issues on our rail network?

The hon. Lady asks a very sensible question on a very important day, the United Nations-sponsored International Day of Persons with Disabilities. There is some good news, because 75% of all journeys—on what is a Victorian network that we are trying to upgrade—are now through step-free stations, compared with 50% only a few years ago.

At the end of September, the Government put in place the second set of emergency contracts with the train operators to continue with train operations. It has now been two months and the Transport Committee has been trying desperately to get hold of copies of those contracts, but we still have not. May I urge the Minister to please ask his officials to get a shifty on? Will he also tell us when he will be able to give us an update from the Dispatch Box as to how the termination payment process is going, so that train operators that would have had to pay under the franchise system will have to pay back to the taxpayer?

I am not sure that my officials would ever do anything shifty whatever. I completely understand and appreciate that my hon. Friend’s Committee wishes to see the redacted emergency recovery measures agreements as soon as practicable, but in the second part of his question he outlined the reason why the redaction of the documents is so important: there are extremely sensitive commercial negotiations ongoing at this point. He has my commitment that as soon as practicable, as we did with the emergency measures agreements before them, we will publish these documents and give them to his Committee.