Rail passenger services going from bad to worse, claims Labour

A passenger train is cancelled every 90 seconds, Labour has warned, as the Government claimed the Opposition’s nationalisation solution is a “failed old policy”.

Opposition analysis of the latest quarterly figures available from the Office of Rail and Road was raised in the House of Commons during clashes over rail policy.

Shadow transport minister Stephen Morgan said: “In the five years since the Government first admitted that reform of our railways was needed, passenger services have gone from bad to worse, with now a train cancelled every 90 seconds – the worst statistics on record.

“With the Transport Secretary openly admitting that any reforms this side of an election are unlikely, does the minister understand why passengers have given up on this Government doing anything to improve their rail experience?”

Industrial strike
Transport minister Huw Merriman (James Manning/PA)

“The key part to mention is when we look at performance, which of course we want to get better, if we take March, for example, 70% of trains were running to time, 2.9% cancellations.

“The two biggest cancellation failures during March were one trespass, one suicide – the trespass alone caused 286 cancellations. So, yes, there’s more we need to do, but the team opposite would actually have a lot more credibility if they recognised the performance indicators and what parts we need to deliver, rather than just chucking dogma about nationalisation, which is a tired, failed old policy.”

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh could be heard shouting: “Just like the Tories.”

Mr Merriman later said it was “crass” and “wrong” for Avanti West Coast management to joke about getting free money from Government in the form of performance-related payments.

Labour former minister Graham Stringer said: “It’s now exactly four months since the Avanti management were caught laughing at the Government.”

He added: “They were laughing because they saw the performance payments that the Government handed out to them as free money and a joke.

“When is the Secretary of State going to take the smile off the face of the appalling Avanti management by finishing their contract?”

Mr Merriman replied: “When that incident occurred, both the Secretary of State and I made it absolutely clear to the team at Avanti and FirstGroup that it wasn’t acceptable, and their senior management agreed it as well. It was crass, it was wrong.

“So, matters are getting better and where they are better, we should applaud the staff.”

Avanti West Coast apologised earlier this year for the incident, saying: “This does not represent Avanti West Coast’s view of the service quality regime and was an isolated incident.”

Conservative former minister Richard Fuller also criticised the Government over the new railway line linking Oxford and Cambridge, as he claimed it will cost taxpayers “an enormous amount” while landowners and developers make “shedloads of money”.

Mr Merriman said: “I believe east-to-west rail is critical in delivering a workforce to Cambridge to allow Cambridge to then compete with the likes of Boston, and those cities in south-east Asia, so that those pioneers actually have a workforce and that we can keep Cambridge, and indeed Oxford, motoring on that basis.”

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