§ 3. Mr. Bowden
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many Network SouthEast British Rail services improved in 1992.
§ The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)
At the end of 1992, 14 out of 15 Network SouthEast service groups were achieving punctuality performance above the level at which compensation would be paid to season ticket holders. The latest results show all 15 above that level. For the most recent four-weekly reporting period, 13 out of 15 routes performed above their punctuality targets.
§ Mr. Bowden
Is my hon. Friend aware that commuters in my constituency are fed up with cold, dirty trains? If the Brighton line were franchised, what would be in the contract to ensure that trains ran on time and were warm and clean?
§ Mr. Freeman
I assure my hon. Friend that the franchise contracts will require not only reliability and punctuality targets, but standards of cleanliness. One great advantage of the franchise contract system is that there will be a specific agreement between the franchising director and the rail operator.
§ Mr. Denham
Does not the Minister recognise that Network SouthEast services are currently being destroyed? Does he know that, in the past six months, many Hampshire stations have had their Sunday services withdrawn? Does he realise that commuter lines from Southampton to Waterloo are being cut, that the service between Southampton and Eastleigh is being cut by 50 per cent. and that the service between Guildford and Portsmouth is changing from semi-fast to stopping trains?
Why does not the Minister recognise that all that is being done to lower the standard of service to the level at which a franchise operator may be able to come in? None of his assurances will take away the reality for rail travellers—that their services are being destroyed around them.
§ Mr. Freeman
Their services are not being destroyed. British Rail is sensibly accommodating the drop in demand that has resulted from the recession of the past two years and it has therefore had to reduce the frequency of services. However, new 159 class trains are being introduced on the Waterloo to Exeter lines: that represents a substantial investment by Network SouthEast, with the Government's support.