George calls for radical solution to rail problems

This week, responding to calls for improved Network Rail accountability, George called for radical thinking in tackling Network Rail's problems and suggested putting track and train operating companies back together. He said that in an areas such as East Anglia it would make sense to have a regional rail company that has full integration, a long-term franchise and the ability to invest and plan for future services.

Rail is of huge importance to rebalancing the economy and can unlock access to regional economies and growth. George is to continuing to campaign for improvements to Anglian rail and in particular the Norwich to Cambridge line which could link the areas innovation clusters to drive sustainable development.

Speaking in the debate George said:

George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a very powerful case, which many of us sympathise with; my constituents certainly will, too. She says that we need to consider new models. Does she agree that we should be really bold and radical in tackling this problem, which is a legacy of some of the mistakes of privatisation compounded massively by a botched renationalisation under the previous Government? In my own region of East Anglia, rail has a crucial role to play in driving a rebalanced economy, innovation and investment. Does she think it might be sensible for us to consider—possibly in areas such as East Anglia—putting track and train operating company back together, thereby creating a regional rail company that has full integration, a long-term franchise and the ability to invest and plan for future services?

Mrs Main: That is an extremely valuable contribution. This debate is not simply about reading out a list of failures and then going away and allowing the situation to continue. If we were to do that, we would be failing the public again and again. Indeed, some of those tragedies that have occurred may happen again somewhere else. We must be radical. I do not wish to take up too much time at the beginning of this debate saying what we should be doing. My hon. Friend is absolutely right though. There are innovative methods. One thought is to have 10 regional areas operating on a system of alliancing. That is a phrase that I had not heard before, but it means having a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the train operating companies. Such a system relies on companies having longer franchises. Many ideas should be considered. None the less, significant issues need to be tackled. We are left with a structure that is patently not fit for purpose. I would like us to say that we will not accept a tinkering around the edges with this. I do not want us to say, “We will just remove one chief executive and stick another one in.” If we do that, we are basically left with all the same people, in the same place, presiding over yet another set of failures. Radicalisation is the only way forward. I am sure that we will hear different suggestions from hon. Members today. We need to sweep out the Augean stables of Network Rail. There are no two ways about it; we are talking about not tinkering but a fundamental change.

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