HC Deb 03 March 1998 vol 307 cc855-6
38. Mr. Cranston

If he will make a statement on the publication of rail passenger satisfaction surveys. [30660]

Mr. Prescott

The Government welcome the customer satisfaction surveys, which the franchising director has required to be published. They show that a significant proportion of privatised train companies are offering a worse service and an overall reduction in the standard and quality of service. That is unacceptable.

Last November, I gave the franchising director new objectives, requiring him to change his priorities. He must now put the interests of passengers first. Concerns continue to be expressed about safety and the excessive profits that are being made by individual directors as a result of the privatisation of the railways. Furthermore, the franchising director and the regulator think that their powers are inadequate. Our White Paper will address that.

Mr. Cranston

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that under the previous Government there was no obligation on many train operating companies to publish these surveys and, where they were obliged to do so under some of the contracts, they had a free choice as to what they could publish? Does he agree that such information is vital? I welcome what he has done in the past month or so to ensure that survey results are published.

Mr. Prescott

That is correct. I increased the franchising director's powers to achieve those objectives. Indeed, I made it clear to him that his primary objective is not to secure maximised profit and privatisation but to put customer satisfaction first.