§ Mr. Jenkins
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what recent representations he has received about the performance of Virgin rail services on(a) the West Coast Mainline and (b) cross country routes; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Ms Glenda Jackson
My Department and the Franchising Director's Office have received 72 representations on all aspects of Virgin West Coast performance and 43 representations on Virgin Cross Country performance since the beginning of this year. Virgin Train's performance has been affected recently due to problems with rolling stock and infrastructure on West Coast, and problems with rolling stock on Cross Country. Virgin Trains have taken action to bring about improvements. We look to the Franchising Director to work with Virgin to ensure that improvements are sustained. In his statement on transport policy on 20 July 1998,Official Report, columns 784–88, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced our plans to set up a Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) with stronger powers to enforce the delivery of contractual obligations by train operators. We also expect the SRA to specify more demanding performance standards for new or renegotiated franchises.