HC Deb 12 June 1995 vol 261 cc481-2
3. Mr. Jon Owen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has made to ensure that track services in Wales are maintained in the event of rail privatisation. [26033]

Mr. Gwilym Jones

My right hon. Friend and I have met the franchising director and I have also met the chairman of Railtrack plc.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones

Does the Minister realise that services are threatened not only by privatisation but by the Government's dithering while privatisation is being discussed? When will the Welsh Office decide where the new freight depot will be in south Wales, if we are to have one? I have written to the Welsh Office supporting the Pengam site, but whether it is Pengam or Magor, the decision needs to be taken rapidly. Welsh business depends on it.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

I would rush to reassure the hon. Gentleman that there is no dithering about the rail freight depot in south Wales; we look forward to a decision being taken. Nor is there any dithering on privatisation generally, which undoubtedly will bring tremendous benefits to the rail travellers of Britain.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Does the Minister agree that for track services through central Wales to be viable, it is essential for Regional Railways Central to provide a decent standard of service for passengers? Does he agree that a service that provides no on-station information, lavatories or telephones, and, at times when one expects tourists, leaves literally hundreds of people standing in inadequate trains, is not of an acceptable standard?

Mr. Jones

The hon. and learned Gentlemen does exactly my job for me: he makes the case for privatisation. There has not been the incentive to provide that service before, because the passenger has not been key. In future, the passenger will be key.

Mr. Rogers

Does the Minister not accept that in the south Wales valleys in particular the general morphology militates against effective communications? [HON. MEMBERS: "Morphology?"] It is the shape of the valleys—something that hon. Members might not understand. It militates against effective communication and transport problems. Will he ensure that, in the unlikely event of privatisation, there is effective investment in track maintenance as well as the maintenance of services?

Mr. Jones

Investment is specifically the responsibility of Railtrack, but I certainly do not accept the surmise of the hon. Gentleman's question and I have a very good basis for that. As he will know, two of the valleys lines run through my constituency of Cardiff, North. The hon. Gentleman's constituents and mine will benefit by the removal of restrictions and increasing incentives, which will lead to a better service for passengers using the valley lines and all railways.