Charles Walker repeats calls for urgent rail improvements

Charles Walker repeats calls for four-tracking of the railway line between Coppermill junction and Broxbourne junction and for improved services on the Hertford Loop line and an end to a second-rate service for local commuters.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that too many of our commuters are paying a premium rate for a second-rate service, due to the way that the franchises are structured and the fees are taken by Government from those franchisees? What we need is the Government to invest in providing a premium service.

Sir Alan Haselhurst

I agree and I shall add to my hon. Friend’s comments later. It is asking a lot to expect people to pay more money each year for a service that has actually been getting worse, not better. That needs addressing.

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Mr Walker

My right hon. Friend’s point is correct. Even if there is no further growth in the next 10 years, the service our constituents currently receive is inadequate. Our line is not fit for purpose. There is no more capacity on it that can be utilised comfortably.

Sir Alan Haselhurst

That is right, and I thank my hon. Friend for underlining that point. If we consider the airport alone—and leave aside business growth and the houses that will yield more future commuters—it is hard to see how the railway can bear the strain unless we take action along the lines of the taskforce’s recommendations.

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Mr Charles Walker

My right hon. Friend is being generous in giving way. Before he concludes his speech, will he cover the support he has received, as we all have, from the local authorities along the track? Their contribution has also been important.

Sir Alan Haselhurst

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. Perhaps I had rather glossed over that in reference to the composition of the taskforce, but we have had full representation from local authority people from different points along the line as part of the taskforce.

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Mr Charles Walker

May I pay tribute to Mark Mills-Bishop? He is the leader of Broxbourne Council, which has also been entirely engaged in the process.

Joan Ryan

Absolutely. The taskforce is a fine example of Members of Parliament and their local authorities working closely together on something that is so important to their local areas’ development and economic development.

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Mr Walker

I am sure that, like me, the right hon. Lady also gets many representations from constituents about the appalling performance of the Hertford loop line and Great Northern. We have twin problems that we need to deal with.

Joan Ryan

Indeed I do. In fact, I travel on Govia’s service on the Hertford loop almost every day, as I know the hon. Gentleman does, so I can give testimony to that.

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Mr Charles Walker

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the idea of four-tracking is not new. I have been campaigning for it, along with my right hon. and hon. Friends for the past 11 years, since I entered Parliament. The right hon. Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan), who first entered Parliament in 1997, has been campaigning for it since then, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Sir Alan Haselhurst) who moved the motion today has been campaigning for it for at least 25 years. The time has come to end the campaign and to ask the Government to start the building.

Daniel Zeichner

I could not agree more. We will await the Minister’s comments with interest.

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Mr Walker

Broxbourne Council is running an initiative called Ambition Broxbourne to bring higher value jobs to the borough. What will limit the council’s ability to do that is a rail service that does not match its ambition.

Daniel Zeichner

Indeed, that is absolutely the case. I am sure the Minister is listening closely to the strong case that is being built.

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