§ 11. Mr. Ian Taylor
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the latest performance statistics on the south-western lines division of Network SouthEast.
§ The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)
For the year ended 29 January 1993, the south-western lines managed to achieve an average performance which was above their targets for 1992. Peak punctuality was 90.9 per cent. and reliability was 99.5 per cent. That is a credit to staff and management.
§ Mr. Taylor
Would my hon. Friend like to know that there is unrestrained enthusiasm on the 10 stations in my constituency about the prospect of the south-western lines division being franchised? That enthusiasm will be maintained so long as the contract that is let to the franchisee observes better performance standards then those currently obtained and safeguards the commuter lines such as those which pass through my constituency.
§ Mr. Freeman
We are grateful to my hon. Friend for his support for franchising, particularly the south-western lines. It would be our intention that the private sector franchisees adopted even higher standards of punctuality and reliability to monitor their own performance.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
Is it not a fact that the franchising that the Minister and the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) welcome will jeopardise branch lines such as those operating from Chessington, Hampton Court, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Esher, the Chertsey branch line, and many other branch lines throughout the Network SouthEast area? Are they not in jeopardy, along with many intermediate stations?
§ Mr. Freeman
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken if he believes The Guardian newspaper that there is likely to be a threat to a substantial part of the network through franchising. The hon. Gentleman would be wrong: there is nothing in our proposals that jeopardises at all either branch lines or existing main routes.
§ Ms. Lait
Is my hon. Friend aware that standards of punctuality on the Network SouthEast route to Hastings are such that British Rail is paying a 5 per cent. reduction? Is he further aware that BR appears to be planning a reduction of seats on the fast trains in the new summer timetable? Will he consult British Rail and alert it to the distress and anger that my commuters feel about the appalling service that they receive from British Rail, which is leading to their approval for the franchising of the British Rail line?
§ Mr. Freeman
I will certainly reflect my hon. Friend's concerns to the chairman of British Rail, but it is a matter for British Rail at present to determine the services that it provides and the fares for its services. Under the franchising system, the franchising director will require a commitment to a certain level of service, especially in the peak, and he will control fares in Network SouthEast.