Oral Answers to Questions

Graham Stringer Excerpts
Thursday 16th May 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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You can think of Coppull station.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab)
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When will the Secretary of State improve on the timetable at the time of Gladstone?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I am not entirely certain—the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) set out clearly the improved performance that we have seen this year. We are clear that we are integrating track and train with our rail reform that is being scrutinised in the House, and that will improve things. We have recently reorganised the Department, bringing in Alex Hynes to link that together. That is how we deliver improved performance. We have set out those plans clearly. Legislation before this House is being scrutinised by the Select Committee of my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart). We look forward to its report, which I understand we will get before the summer recess, to take those plans forward.

--- Later in debate ---
Huw Merriman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman)
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I will do everything I can. It is a beautiful example of railway architecture and it must be saved, so I applaud my right hon. Friend’s work. I recently had a conference for leaders in rail, at which I talked to all the train operators and Network Rail about bringing these beautiful buildings back to life for the community. I have met that team as well and will do everything I can to help him.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab)
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T2. It is now exactly four months since the Avanti management were caught laughing at the Government —they are not on their own. They were laughing because they see the performance payments that the Government hand out to them as free money and a joke. When will the Secretary of State take the smile off the faces of the appalling Avanti management by finishing their contract?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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When that incident occurred, the Secretary of State and I made it clear to the teams at Avanti and FirstGroup that that was not acceptable, and their senior management agreed. It was crass and it was wrong. We often talk about Avanti’s performance. The overtime agreement had been withdrawn by ASLEF, which caused the start of the difficulties, but it has since been put back in place. When I looked at the data for the first week of May, there were pretty much 0% cancellations from Avanti induced incidents. Matters are getting better and, where they are better, we should applaud the staff.