The speech made by Chris Loder, the Conservative MP for West Dorset, in Westminster Hall on 26 April 2022.
Thank you for calling me, Sir Charles. Well, with three minutes I will just get to the point, if I may.
I appreciate the comments of the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq). I should just say that the RMT does not quite agree with her about the London Mayor. I respectfully make that point, because the RMT has itself said that it is the London Mayor who is causing the logjam, and ultimately that has a considerable impact on the finances available. I represent a constituency that I am afraid has a three-hourly train service frequency, and when I see Transport for London getting such considerable amounts of money, it is a matter of great concern to me. That is money going to support the good people of London, rather than to support the Heart of Wessex line. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is well aware of my strong views on that point.
I will move on to the future of rail. I spent 20 years working for the railways before being elected to Parliament. I am not sure whether there are any Opposition Members present who used to be members of the RMT. I was once a member and should give it a big shout-out for its policy briefing, which was very interesting and for which I am grateful. The railways are very important for the future of this country. I appreciate that lots of people have strong views on where the new GB Railways HQ should be, although personally I do not think that will make much of a difference to the future capability of the railway; what will make an enormous difference is where the Government look to invest. The Government have supported the railway to the tune of £14 billion during the worst time of the pandemic. They have kept thousands of people in jobs, and they have done so to ensure that the future of our railways is extremely good and supports the future of our country.
It is really important that we also consider the wider things that the railways have to change going forward. The railways have been marvellous in lots of ways, but the fact that it can take 12 months to change a timetable is not acceptable in the current day and age. Why is it that we have a timetable that is the same on a Monday as it is on a Friday, when we know that the demands are very different? There are fundamental changes that need to happen in order for our railways to excel.
I am conscious of time and am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. As a final point, it is really important that we remember it is not all about the cities; it is about connecting the rural areas as well—areas such as West Dorset and other parts of the country that would greatly benefit from that in the future.