HC Deb 10 February 1992 vol 203 cc644-5
8. Mr. Burns

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will pay an official visit to Chelmsford using the rail service provided from Liverpool Street station to Chelmsford.

Mr. Freeman

My hon. Friend will recall that I visited Chelmsford with him just over a year ago. The line to Chelmsford is benefiting from a continuing programme of investment which has recently included new trains and the splendid refurbishment of Liverpool Street station. Future investment will include major resignalling works, including works in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Mr. Burns

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. My constituents welcome the fact that £1 million a day is being invested in Network SouthEast, but they are still concerned about the punctuality and cleanliness of trains. Will my hon. Friend use his influence to ensure that the citizens charter allows compensation for rail users who do not get a good service, apart from when vandals or adverse weather conditions affect that service? So far, British Rail has not been capable of issuing its own scheme, and getting compensation out of British Rail is like getting blood out of a stone.

Mr. Freeman

I can confirm that British Rail will publish its rail passengers charter shortly. Performance targets will be set for all 15 Network SouthEast lines, including the Great Eastern line, and those targets include punctuality and reliability. Although a comprehensive scheme of compensation will be set up, I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that the targets should be there primarily as an incentive to British Rail to perform well, given the investment that it has made, rather than to provide, automatically and at great cost, compensation to passengers, particularly as the money would have to come out of British Rail's pocket.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Minister remember the Adjournment debate on 7 June last year, when I pointed out that at the key junction of Stratford, at this very line, it is not just Great Eastern that will be responsible for the trains? There will also be the north-west region of Network SouthEast, Regional Railways, InterCity, Train Load Freight, Freightliner, International Ferry and Freight, the docklands light railway and London Underground. At the moment, there are also plans, through crossrail, to have trains coming from the Thames valley, the Chilterns and the channel tunnel. Will not all these profit centres and ownerships of coaches and wagons mean that even the fattest of fat controllers will not be able to sort out the quarrels over profits and that these bodies will be quarrelling all the way to Marsham street?

Mr. Freeman

I do not share the hon. Gentleman's pessimism. He did not mention what will be possibly the most important project over the next few years to affect Stratford—the Jubilee line. I hope that the relevant Bill will receive approval in another place shortly and then Royal Assent. Stratford will indeed be an important terminal, but British Rail has plans to modernise the station and in the 21st century it will become one of the most important rail terminals in western Europe.