My constituency has minimal rail infrastructure. The reopening of Horden train station was a cause for celebration. It promised new opportunities for employment, education and leisure through making the major towns and cities in the north-east more accessible to people living in my constituency in east Durham.
We do not enjoy the embarrassment of riches in public transport that we see in London and, apparently, in some other constituencies, where missing a tube or a bus is not a major issue, with another service arriving just minutes later.
Seaham and Horden in my constituency are served by one train an hour, normally consisting of two carriages. For my constituents who are seeking to attend a hospital appointment, a university or college class, getting to work, or simply meeting friends, the reliability of the train has a considerable impact on employment prospects or educational success. To increase capacity and frequency, we are not talking about multi-billion pound schemes. If there were any truth in the levelling-up rhetoric, I would not be on my feet here tonight, pressing the Government for additional transport options, more resources and more frequent services.
I want to highlight a particular case for the Minister, who is a good man, about what the consequences are when we have severe overcrowding, I will, if I may, read out a letter that I have received, relaying the experience of a constituent. It is from the mother of Harry, an 11-year-old boy. This is what she said:
“Harry, 11, was standing squashed with his Dad. He started to go pale and felt sick. He then suddenly collapsed, went limp, eyes rolled back and he passed out. We pulled the emergency stop button. After about a minute, he came round, but was weak, limp and only just responding. There was no space for him to lie down — the train was so crammed — no space for me to even get to him. No space for the conductor to get to him to see if he needed medical help. The windows were closed. It was hot, airless, and people were packed to absolute capacity. What does it take for the train companies to understand that packing trains full to above safe capacity is a fatality waiting to happen. The conductors were encouraging people to get on an already dangerously full train.”
I invite the Minister to understand our experience in east Durham with these overcrowded crushes, which are a clear risk to health and safety.