Parliament & Politics: Minister calls trains summit

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The Independent Online
RAIL PASSENGERS who have been angered by delays and low standards of service will be able to complain personally to leaders of the rail industry at a summit next month, it was announced yesterday.

John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, said the Rail Summit on 25 February would kick-start a long-term effort to improve standards across the railway network.

Amid continuing problems with the performance of train companies and Railtrack, Mr Prescott will seek to thrash out plans for immediate action at the meeting.

The move follows last November's meeting between Mr Prescott and the train companies, when they pledged to recruit 800 new drivers and introduce 500 new trains.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions said the meeting was being billed as a transport version of the "water summit" held with water firms last May on action to prevent leaks.

Mr Prescott's announcement came at question time as MPs attacked the quality of rail services, singling out Richard Branson's Virgin West Coast main line trains for special criticism.

David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North, said Mr Branson should "stop ballooning" and deal with the day to day misery of thousands of rail passengers.

Mr Prescott said it was "generally agreed" there had not been an improvement in the quality of the railway system since privatisation.