HC Deb 15 June 1999 vol 333 cc144-5
7. Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

What discussions he has had on the prospects for the Holyhead-Crewe-Euston rail route; and if he will make a statement. [85785]

The Minister for Transport (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

The Office of the Passenger Rail Franchising Director has had regular discussions about improving direct services on the Holyhead-Crewe-Euston route with Railtrack, Virgin West Coast, which is the current service provider, and First North Western, which has made a commitment to provide services from 2000 in addition to the services currently being provided by Virgin.

Mr. Jones

For a generation, that service has been substandard, and quite intolerably so. What new investment, rolling stock and timetables will there be, to the benefit of north Wales users who look to the service to help to attract new industry to the area? Today, my constituency celebrates an £800 million defence contract, which will bring new, high-quality work to the area, and my Raytheon aerospace workers are grateful, but does my right hon. Friend accept that we could attract many more such projects if we had a first-class rail service?

Mrs. Liddell

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his imminent elevation to the Privy Council, which is fair recognition of his service to the House and to his constituents. The point that he raised about the Holyhead to Euston route is valid. There has been fragmentation on the route over the past 18 years, but, because of the development of the west coast main line and the services that are to be provided by Virgin West Coast and the other developers, there will be through services which will benefit the economic development of the area.

My hon. Friend's point about the £800 million investment in his area is well taken because, as my colleagues in the Welsh Office have repeatedly said, transport infrastructure in and out of Wales and from north to south Wales is critical. I commend him for raising this matter.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

Will the Minister redouble her efforts? I ask that because a group of Japanese potential investors who recently came to north Wales by train arrived two hours late and decided, "That's enough; we are not going to invest in north Wales." Travelling on an early train from north Wales is like playing Russian roulette—the service is appalling.

Mrs. Liddell

The hon. Gentleman's point is valid. If we are to improve our economic performance, we must make sure that our transport infrastructure is second to none. The developments on the west coast main line and the spur developments coming off it are critical and, because of that, I have invited Railtrack and the Association of Train Operating Companies to see me in the next few weeks. I want to talk about issues such as that which he has raised; it is vital to all of us and to the economic performance of our country.