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Electrification (Birmingham)

Volume 167: debated on Monday 12 February 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to announce his decision on the electrification of the Birmingham cross-city railway line.

I announced last week the Government's approval to the electrification and re-equipment of the Birmingham cross-city rail line.

Opposition Members are grateful to the Secretary of State for that announcement, hurried though it appeared to be. We accept, of course, that there is no connection between his decision and the Mid-Staffordshire by-election that is to be held shortly. Will the Secretary of State now consider the extension of the Walsall-Hendnesford railway line to Rugeley, preferably on or before 15 March?

I believe that the county council is strongly opposed to the proposal, and I understand that the hon. Gentleman's party is in charge of that council. I am sure that when he tabled his question two weeks ago he did not have the by-election in mind; nor, I think, did he have it mind to help the Conservative candidate and neither did I.

Did my right hon. Friend chance to see the evening paper last week? Blazoned across the front page was the headline, "Cross City Rail Joy". That, of course, was the result of the extensive £37 million modernisation programme announced by my right hon. Friend. Is not this a reflection of the hard work done by many Members of Parliament in Birmingham and the areas surrounding it—particularly that of our late colleague John Heddle, who was in the vanguard of the campaign to bring a modernised rail service to his constituents?

Birmingham Members, especially Conservatives, have certainly been very assiduous in pressing the case for inner-city improvement in Birmingham, and the rail link—along with the heartlands spine road—is evidence of the Government's commitment to inner-city regeneration.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the rail link from Nottingham to London would cost——

Yes. Is the Secretary of State aware that the link would cost a mere £95 million?

The link referred to in the question is, of course, entirely unrelated to the by-election. Will the right hon. Gentleman call on some of his colleagues in Nottinghamshire to resign their seat so that we, too, can benefit from an electrification similar to that which is now benefiting the people of Lichfield?

I thought that the question was a pretty feeble joke when the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) put it on the Order Paper. Conservative Members do not regard the Humber bridge as a desirable precedent, and therefore do not intend to follow it.