HC Deb 28 January 2003 vol 398 cc705-6
4. James Purnell (Stalybridge and Hyde)

What improvements for passengers he expects the new franchise for the trans-Pennine express to deliver. [93532]

The Minister for Transport (Mr. John Spellar)

The new trans-Pennine express franchise is intended to provide for faster and higher quality long-distance passenger rail services between major towns and cities across the north of England. Its terms will reflect the outcome of negotiations with bidders, among other things.

James Purnell

When my right hon. Friend is next in the north-west, may I encourage him to pop into the Stalybridge buffet bar, which many rail enthusiasts believe to be the best on the network? May I also warn him that, while he is sampling one of the many Belgian bottled beers that we have on offer, he may be taken aback at the anger of commuters on the trans-Pennine express? Will he meet me to discuss the petition that was signed by more than 400 commuters and discuss how we can improve the reliability and frequency of the trains and redevelop the station? Will he urge the SRA to act on that petition?

Mr. Spellar

The first invitation is obviously a must for when I am next in the north-west. I think that I also detected an offer from my hon. Friend to stand a pint at the bar.

As I know what an assiduous constituency MP my hon. Friend is, I am sure that he will engage with his local authority to put a case to the Strategic Rail Authority to consider a rail passenger partnership in his area. Of course, I would certainly be more than happy to meet him to discuss this matter further.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)

Will my right hon. Friend come to Burnley at an early date to look at the need to improve the trans-Pennine service that runs via Burnley station, where there is tremendous potential? Everybody in Burnley is hoping that the new franchise will ensure that we get the service delivery to which we are entitled.

Hon. Members

What about beer?

Mr. Spellar

There was a certain lack in that particular request.

As my hon. Friend knows, I am due to visit Burnley in a couple of Fridays' time, albeit at half-past eight in the morning. I shall certainly look forward to discussing the matter with him further and I am sure that we can incorporate that into my visit.