HC Deb 21 March 1994 vol 240 cc8-9
9. Mrs. Bridget Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many stations within the Network SouthEast operating region are unstaffed after 6 pm and at weekends; and if he will provide comparable figures for 1979.

Mr. Freeman

There are approximately 1,000 stations in the Network SouthEast operational area. British Rail management informs me that approximately 80 per cent. of Network SouthEast stations are unstaffed after 6 pm, approximately 30 per cent. are unstaffed on Saturdays, and 50 per cent. are unstaffed on Sundays.

Mrs. Prentice

Is not it an absolute disgrace that four out of five of our stations are unstaffed after 6 o'clock in the evening, given that, as the Minister must be aware, at least two assaults take place every day on Network SouthEast stations? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, at stations such as Lee in my constituency, women are frightened to travel on trains because there are no station staff and that British Rail is losing money because there are no staff in the booking halls either?

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Lady is right. I think that British Rail is losing revenue because of the perception of fear. That is the situation in the public sector. Once we begin to franchise railway services, matters will improve because there will be more commercial activity at the stations and because private sector operators will want to see more passengers using the trains and will be likely to have more staff and use the existing staff more flexibly.

Mr. Raynsford

Will the Minister stop trying to run away from his responsibility? After being in power for 15 years—during which time they have run down the staffing of so many stations—why do the Government not now accept their responsibility in this area and get the staff back to ensure that the public are safe and can pay their fares, that Network SouthEast can increase its revenue and that we can have a better rail service now?

Mr. Freeman

That will happen if the hon. Gentleman and his supporters back the principle of passenger rail franchising.