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MP asks for rail Xmas presents for constituents

Transport minister unable gift wrap promises

Screen grab of Westminster Hall debate

Transport minister Andrew Jones says he is unable to give a firm date when Oyster cards will be rolled out on the Welwyn Garden City line, but says it will be by the autumn of 2019, or sooner if possible.

He was responding during a debate about the local rail service, called by Welwyn Hatfield MP, Grant Shapps. You can view the debate below.

During the half hour Westminster Hall debate Shapps spoke of a service that has "gone backwards" in terms of the number and speed of trains.

He said he had been "inundated" by concerned and upset constituents, some of whom had been forced to give up their jobs because of the poor level of service.

And he asked the transport minister to give his constituents a Xmas present in the form of an exact date when the Oyster cards would be introduce. A present the minister was unable to deliver.

Shapps had a second request to put to the minster. He said he had been in continuous discussion with Transport for London (TfL) who, he said, are keen to take over the franchise.

The MP said that for this to happen Govia needed to supply TfL with research data so they could provide a service. He said that data is required before February 2019. Jones said he would follow up the request for data with his department.

The minister also announced that new trains would be introduced on the Welwyn Garden City to Moorgate line which would carry 943 passengers as opposed to the current rolling stock's capacity of 640.

Regarding off-peak passenger numbers from Brookmans Park and Welham Green, there appeared to be differences in the data gathered by Shapps and the minister's department.

The minister said that there was not the level of demand from the two stations to justify three trains an hour during off peak with "very few passengers boarding at these stations".

Shapps questioned the minster's figures saying passenger numbers from both stations were increasing.

The minister said he would take the MPs data back to his department and "compare and contrast" the numbers.

Relevant sections in the video (above)

11:10:40 - Shapps asks the transport minister for the date when Oyster cards will "actually be introduced" saying "this will be his Xmas present to my commuters".

11:11:08 - Shapps asks the transport minister to encourage Govia to provide data to TfL before the end of February 2019, saying "I invite the minister to make my constituents' Xmas".

11:25:05 - Jones: "I am afraid I can't give him the exact Xmas present of the date but can confirm it will happen in 2019 and the target date is in the autumn".

11:27:25 - Jones: "the point about data I will follow up with my department".

11:28:25 - Shapps: "I didn't hear a commitment there. We need a decision on the data ... by the end of February next year".

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