§ Sir Fergus Montgomery
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how the British Railways board has responded to the report by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on the board's provincial services; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Portillo
The British Railways board has made an initial response to the report and I have today placed copies of that response in the Library of the House. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission has generally endorsed the achievements and strategy of the provinchal sector and the board has accepted nearly all the commission's recommendations. I am grateful for the commission's work and I welcome the board's positive response. The commission endorses the board's considerable progress in reducing the costs of provincial services and raising revenue through better marketing. I attach great importance to that. But these services still require considerable public subsidy and they must be cost effective. I shall monitor the board's progress in following up the commission's recommendations and a further statement will be made to the House about that, probably early next year.
The commission's report makes recommendations about quality of service targets. Having considered the advice of the commission together with that of the central transport consultative committee and of the board itself, we have now asked the board to aim for the revised quality targets for provincial services which are set out in the table. We are expecting the targets to be met by each of the express/longer rural and urban shorter rural categories of service as a whole. However, we have asked the board t o advise on the cost implications of meeting the targets on each route.
The new targets are more in line with the provincial sector's customer-oriented approach. They are consistent with the existing quality targets set for InterCity and Network SouthEast services. They establish reasonable levels of service for the board to provide for customers using provincial services without imposing exessive costs or fares. I very much welcome the recent appointment by the board of a provincial quality manager.
I commend the new targets to the passenger transport executives for the services they support. But they may of course choose different targets if they judge that the extra benefits justify a higher level of local support.
The board's response records that discussions are also taking place with my Department about recommendations that involve wider policy issues. Further announcements on these matters will be made in due course.1103W
British Rail provincial sector: New quality of service targets Target Punctuality Express 90 per cent. (0 to 10 minutes of right time) Longer rural Urban 90 per cent. (0 to 5 minutes) Shorter rural Trains run Express 99.5 per cent, minimum Longer rural Urban 99 per cent, minimum Shorter rural Loadings Express No published targets Longer rural Urban 135 per cent./110 per cent, for sliding/slam door stock; maximum 20 minutes standing Shorter rural Cleaning Internal 100 per cent, daily 100 per cent, every two days External Telephone Enquiry Bureaux 95 per cent, of calls to be answered within 30 seconds Ticket Office queues Maximum times of 5 minutes/3 minutes, in peak/off-peak