Michael Fabricant initiated a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday
27th January with Geoff Hoon MP, the Secretary of State for Transport,
over the reliability of the new West Coast Mainline Service during
January and took the opportunity to invite the Secretary of State to the
next dinner of the Lichfield Commuters Club to answer the concerns of
local rail travellers face to face.
"Whatever the banter beforehand, the Secretary of State unwisely agreed
so we must invite him formally" says Michael Fabricant. "It could be an
interesting and fun meeting! There are many questions local commuters
have regarding the standards, frequency, and reliability of the
Lichfield to London train service."
The text of the discussion as taken from Hansard follows:-
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What recent estimate he has made of
the cost to the economy of disruption on the west coast main line over
the new year period; and if he will make a statement.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Geoff Hoon): Network Rail has
apologised to passengers and businesses for the disruption on the west
coast main line over the new year period, which was the result of
separate incidents. Disruption on the railway does have economic
consequences, which is why we are committing record levels of investment
to increase capacity and resilience. The economic impact of the improved
west coast main line is a very positive one, cutting journey times and
allowing 45 per cent. more long-distance trains out of Euston.
Michael Fabricant: I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. In his
latest newsletter, Tony Collins, chief executive of Virgin Trains, says
of the delay in the implementation of the new timetable: "We are
disappointed with the current situation. We will continue to work with
And of the disruption over the new year, he says: "Setting aside the
tragic plane crash in Staffordshire, the bad days have largely related
to overhead line equipment failures."
Does the Secretary of State understand that members of the Lichfield
commuters club-and, indeed, other commuters up and down the west coast
main line-feel that with hugely increased fares they should be getting
an increased service? Where does the buck stop? When will the Secretary
of State take responsibility for this?
Mr. Hoon: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his question. I am told
that he chairs "a small but influential group of rail users". I trust
that that small group consists of more than one member, but-
Michael Fabricant: I invite the Secretary of State to our next dinner.
Mr. Hoon: I would be delighted to visit Lichfield.
Michael Fabricant: It is being held in the House of Commons in Dining
Mr. Hoon: Even better. It appears that the hon. Gentleman’s "small
group" is a very small one indeed. Nevertheless, I would be delighted to
meet him to discuss rail services in Lichfield, and I agree that it is
important that reliable services are maintained from Lichfield, and also
along other parts of the west coast main line. That is precisely why we
committed so much funding to its improvement, and why we continue to
monitor the developments. We hope-indeed, we expect-that his
constituents will have a safe reliable journey along that line.