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MPs critical on rail rolling stock

The Government has been urged to take responsibility for train rolling stock and tackle shortages which have led to massive overcrowding on services.

The Transport Select Committee also called for spending on rail to be spread across the country rather than favouring London.

And the MPs pressed Network Rail to regain the confidence of passengers following the chaos over Christmas at London's King's Cross and Paddington.

The committee welcomed record investment in the rail network but said it was concerning that the Transport Department had ordered new trains for services in London and the South East while expecting passengers in the rest of the country to travel on reconditioned, older stock.

Louise Ellman, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin had refused to say when the "outdated and unpopular" Pacer trains would be removed from the network, adding that they should go by 2020 at the latest.

She said: "With over 1.5 billion journeys made last year, millions of people rely on a train service to get to work or see family and friends. We welcome the record spending planned for the 'classic' rail network, but Treasury statistics demonstrate that for too long this spending has been focused on London.

"We call for revised, and published, criteria to ensure fairer funding allocations that reflect wider economic and social objectives.

"The chaos faced by passengers over Christmas at King's Cross and Paddington, and the continuing disruption at London Bridge, are unacceptable. They are also a worrying sign for the capacity of Network Rail to manage multiple complex engineering projects simultaneously.

"Network Rail must demonstrate that it can deliver key improvements, such as electrification in the North West and the Great Western Main Line, on time and while still delivering safe and efficient services for all passengers.

"Reported delays to key infrastructure projects must be addressed by the Department for Transport. If a rail improvement or electrification project is announced for delivery in a set time period, there should be an expectation that it will be delivered on time."

Mrs Ellman said rising numbers of rail passengers had not been matched by investment in new rolling stock, resulting in passengers being unable to get on some busy trains.

Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, commented: "Twenty years of fragmentation, mismanagement and private profiteering on Britain's railways have left maintenance, upgrading, expansion and fleet replacement programmes miles behind where they need to be to keep pace with surging passenger demand.

"That has left us in the ludicrous position where rolling stock is being shifted from the North to the South, there aren't enough units to operate on the newly electrified lines in the North and the lashed up Pacer trains, welding a bus body to a train chassis, are stuck with us for years to come. The state of our rail fleet and infrastructure is a daily insult to passengers paying the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed out, unreliable services."

Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, said: "We welcome the committee's call for an end to the North-South divide on rail spending. They recognise that the regions have been short-changed for too long and it is high time they got their fair share of investment in new lines and new trains.

"Passengers in the North, Wales and the South West should not still be travelling around on 30-year-old Pacer trains while commuters in the South East benefit first from new trains."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We are investing record amounts in building a world-class railway as part of our long term economic plan and we have ambitious plans to improve rail services in the north. This includes improved east-west journey times through HS3, the replacement of Pacer trains and a £1 billion investment programme in the region's railways.

"Together they will improve services for passengers and help close the economic gap between north and south. We have made it clear to Network Rail that we expect the company to deliver the Government's investment programme on-time and on-budget."


From Belfast Telegraph