(1 year, 5 months ago)Read Full debate
The Government are signalling their political commitment to the north of England by spending £13 billion on transport in the north in the years to 2020 and by allocating £2.9 billion to the trans-Pennine route upgrade alone. As I have already said, that represents a third of the entire rail enhancement budget for that five-year period. The trans-Pennine upgrade will be a phased project. It will be a rolling programme of enhancements, including major civil engineering projects and electrification.
Yes, we are working very carefully with GTR and the rest of the industry to ensure that proper compensation is made available to everybody who has suffered on the most severely affected routes. We have already done so for passengers on Northern and other bits of the north of England. We will make an announcement about compensation for passengers on severely affected GTR routes, Thameslink and Great Northern shortly.
(1 year, 5 months ago)Read Full debate
The cancellation of services is now progressively more and more planned by Northern as it seeks to stabilise the timetable and to ensure that the travelling public—the constituents of hon. Members on both sides of the House—can plan their journeys with greater assurance. This improvement, and the stabilisation and increased reliability, must continue over coming weeks. Northern plans to run the timetable until the end of July, when it will review progress and take stock. At that point, it will hope significantly to increase the number of timetabled services while ensuring continued improvements in stability.
The crux of the performance issues, as hon. Members have recognised, is the availability of drivers with the correct training. I am happy to say that, as a result of Northern’s hard work with ASLEF on rest day working, they were able to announce last week that they had reached an agreement for the immediate introduction of a new rest day working agreement. This will allow for more training and a better service for passengers sooner.
Let me turn to GTR’s performance. GTR is also working to increase the predictability and reliability of journeys on its network. It is working actively to reduce on-the-day cancellations, and is now updating its timetables on a Friday evening for the following week, enabling passengers to plan ahead more effectively. Alternative travel arrangements are in place. For example, passengers on the Brighton main line can have their Thameslink tickets accepted on Gatwick Express, and next month GTR will introduce a full temporary timetable across its network as the next step to improve reliability and performance for passengers.
It is worth noting that some parts of the GTR network, including all of Southern, are now experiencing more train services and better performance than ever before. However, I do not consider the service to be anywhere near approaching one that I or passengers would find acceptable and, as the Secretary of State said, we are examining why GTR is taking longer than Northern to improve services. The review that has been commissioned will look at whether GTR has met and is continuing to meet its contractual obligations in the planning and delivery of the May timetable.
That question will be addressed in the review, which is looking carefully at GTR’s performance and whether it has breached any of its contractual franchise commitments. That is not something that we can pre-empt. We are looking at it carefully in the review and, as the Secretary of State said in his opening remarks, nothing is off the table.
(1 year, 8 months ago)Read Full debate
I thank my hon. Friend for bringing to our attention the issues faced by his constituents, particularly at Balcombe station. There will be further opportunities to lobby for changes to the timetable at the next iteration; May’s is obviously set in stone, but there will always be a December timetable and subsequent timetables, so these things are not set in stone. This has been one of the biggest timetabling changes the network has ever seen and, understandably, not everything is going to satisfy everybody at every moment in time.
This has been one of the biggest timetabling changes the system has ever undertaken and, as I have said, it will not have satisfied everybody in its first iteration. However, December is coming along in not too lengthy a period of time, and hon. Members are always welcome to put suggestions to the Department and to their operators for consideration.
[Official Report, 24 April 2018, Vol. 639, c. 5MC.]The impact of the midland main line works only became apparent to us in November 2017, as I mentioned. This short timeline meant that a specific consultation for Harpenden passengers was simply not a viable option. To give my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden some background, the detailed work to implement the May timetable on the Thameslink routes began more than a year ago. This timetable rewrite is unprecedented in its scale. Every service on this part of the network is being altered in order to bring about the full benefits of the Thameslink programme. As work progressed, the Department was advised that there were likely to be some temporary negative impacts on some services as a result of the complexity of this undertaking. By the time this became clear, it would have been disingenuous to consult, as he acknowledged, as there was by that stage only one viable option before us. Since that point, industry professionals have been working to address as many of these negative effects as physically possible. Although it has not been possible to eliminate them all, the industry will continue to work to improve the timetable at every subsequent opportunity.
As an MP whose constituency sits on the Thameslink network, I share many of the concerns that have been raised in this debate. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that the Thameslink programme is an incredibly ambitious investment, which will transform travel across the south-east for the coming decades. We have already seen new trains rolled out across the Thameslink network, replacing trains that were first introduced in the 1980s. The new trains carry far more people and will allow Thameslink to meet the demand of a 21st-century city. These trains have live information screens so that passengers know if their tube line is delayed. These trains have wide entrances and gangways, making it easier for passengers to move around, and get on and off the train. We have also already seen substantial investment in stations. The £1 billion redevelopment of London Bridge is perhaps the best known, but investments have been made across the network so that the benefits of the Thameslink programme can be felt across the whole south-east. We have also seen substantial investment in infrastructure upgrades, including the replacement of tracks and signals, and the repair of tunnels and bridges. This means that passengers will get the resilient and reliable service that they deserve.
Question put and agreed to.