McLoughlin quizzed on state of UK rolling stock

GWR 800004 speeds through Taplow. ANTONY GUPPY.

By January next year there will be an additional 9,000 peak-time seats on c2c, and by 2024 capacity will increase by a further 16,000 seats.

Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin revealed the figures to MPs on June 30, responding to a question in the Commons from Sir David Amess (Conservative, Southend West).

During a Q&A session, McLoughlin fielded a number of questions relating to rolling stock in Cumbria, the Midlands and the South West.

Ben Bradshaw (Labour, Exeter) asked about the effect Brexit will have on the overall investment plans, saying: “The Secretary of State will know that the rolling stock serving the South West of England dates from the 1970s, and we are eagerly updating our new, updated trains. What assessment have he and his Department made of the impact of Brexit and the economic shock from Brexit on his overall investment plans for our transport system?”

McLoughlin replied that the investment in the IEP and AT300s that will serve the South West are “very welcome”, and that he was “pleased” that Bradshaw welcomed the investment.

Barry Sheerman (Labour/Co-op, Huddersfield) asked: “The other day, an employee of Virgin Trains East Coast described the refurb of some of the old trains as ‘like giving granny a new dress’. Is the Secretary of State not aware of the state of the rolling stock on the East Coast? When is it going to get better, and how can we justify that sort of rolling stock when we are wasting so much money on HS2?”

McLoughlin replied that Sheerman should be welcoming “the vast investment that we are seeing on that railway line”. He added: “He is now complaining about the upgrading of stock in the interim before the new IEP trains come in. I would have thought he would welcome that new service and also welcome the new service into London that will eventually serve Huddersfield.”

Philip Hollobone (Conservative, Kettering) asked McLoughlin to ensure that with the new East Midlands franchise, the fleet of High Speed Trains used on the Midland Main Line will be replaced with new rolling stock and not a cascaded fleet.

McLoughlin replied: “When we come to look at the franchise for the East Midlands line, I am sure that is one of the many issues we will take into account. It is worth pointing out that since 2010 we have seen almost 5,000 new carriages for use in the UK’s railway network. That is one of the biggest ever upgrades of our railway stock. As a regular user of the East Midlands line, I also hope it will get new rolling stock in due course.”

Sue Hayman (Labour, Workington) highlighted the Cumbrian Coast, stating that a lot of busy trains were formed of a single carriage, and that other trains used stock dating from the 1970s. She asked what the Government was doing to improve the situation.

McLoughlin highlighted the phasing out of the Pacers, adding: “If the hon. Lady is saying that more needs to be done, I accept that.” He then once again highlighted the 5,000 vehicles ordered since 2010.


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  • Viva la HST - 05/07/2016 11:05

    It's a shame that parliamentarians are trying to get rid of HSTs as quickly as possible. I enjoyed a trip on a Virgin Trains EC refurbished HST set last week - the ride quality was smooth, the seats comfortable, and the carriage spacious. Far better than comparable modern units. While their advanced age is naturally precluding future use on the busiest front-line services - chiefly the GW 'inners' and East Coast use - their employment on CrossCountry relief services and Midland Mainline long-distances for another decade or so surely makes economic sense, particularly with the large numbers of spares hitting the market over the next 5 years? Much gusto is being put into following up on the IEP order with AT300s everywhere. Given Great Western's somewhat poor history of rolling stock procurement (*ahem* Adelante) and the old AnsaldoBreda factory in Italy, where many of these AT300s will be built, having a history of broken and dangerous trains (Rail Magazine passim), am I alone in thinking that TOCs and the DfT should exercise caution, going slow and steady until they know that replacements will actually be an upgrade on the ever-popular HST?

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    • Davidq - 24/07/2016 10:21

      Just to play "devil's advocate": great trains as they are, I think that the HSTs have had their time. IEP has been expensive to develop, yes, but from what I've seen, they are very impressive. Definitely "a HST for the 21st century". Play the marketing right and they'll bring in a whole new captive audience.

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