§ 6. Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)
What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues regarding rail services in former mining constituencies. 
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Peter Hain)
Regular discussions. We are determined to deliver better rail services.
§ Mr. Bryant
I know that my right hon. Friend is aware that the rail operators in Wales seem to find it impossible to provide a decent railway service after rugby matches at the millennium stadium. Is he also aware that the last train leaving Cardiff for the valleys is at 10.30 pm, well before most shows at the new millennium centre will finish? Is not it time that we banged some more heads together to make sure that the millennium centre does 670 not become a millennium matinee centre and that English people do not find it impossible to attend matches at the best stadium in the country?
§ Peter Hain
I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, last night, I was told by both the chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority and the Minister for Transport that, despite all their efforts, the necessary return London services to the England-Wales international next month could not be provided. That is a bitter disappointment. The rail companies have failed abysmally to provide the standard of service that Wales and Cardiff expect, and I have told them that they had better get their act together. Meanwhile, I have been promised temporary arrangements, including extra rail shuttles to Newport, to link with additional coach services. The 10,000 English fans who usually return by train, however, will be guaranteed a warm Welsh welcome—including in the Rhondda, I am sure—if they decide to stay overnight in Wales in many of the communities that will welcome them.
§ Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)
The Secretary of State knows that the Strategic Rail Authority is looking to cut, under the new franchise for Wales, rail services in coalfield areas and the rest of Wales by 10 or 20 per cent. He has made much of the fact that we cannot get back out of Cardiff after hours, but what does he say about this huge reduction in services promised for Wales? With regard to the Strategic Rail Authority, will he insist that there cannot be any reduction in the funding for, or provision of, rail services in Wales?
§ Peter Hain
As the hon. Gentleman knows, funding for rail services across Britain, including Wales, has been rising from the abysmally low level that we inherited in 1997. Over a two-year period, it has risen from £3.1 billion last year to £4.3 billion next year. Certainly, the issue that he raised will be addressed.
§ Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)
The Secretary of State will recognise that one way of overcoming deprivation and regenerating communities such as Blaenau Gwent is to improve the communication system. Although we welcome the planned reintroduction of the railway service between Ebbw Vale and Cardiff, does he accept that the plans are inadequate as long as they exclude Newport, where many of our people work, while many people come from Newport to Blaenau Gwent for jobs and leisure opportunities?
§ Peter Hain
I agree. We are therefore working hard with the Assembly and the SRA on the passenger service requirement to provide the extra services. [Interruption.]