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Employment (Former Mining Communities)

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2007

1. What steps she proposes to take to improve transport services to enable better access to jobs for people in former mining communities. (149827)

Local transport authorities in former mining areas have made substantial investment to address local regeneration objectives, including enabling better access to jobs through new roads, improvements to public transport and facilities for walking and cycling.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to her new position in the Government. Is she aware of the issue of access to jobs in the Dearne valley project, which is part funded by the housing market renewal programme? It is creating greater opportunities for access to jobs and services in the Dearne and South Yorkshire area in general. Does she agree that future housing development and housing regeneration projects have to go hand in hand with greater accessibility planning at their core?

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind welcome and I acknowledge his interest in the subject, which is extremely important for the South Yorkshire area. I read his speech at a conference in March, in which he set out the importance of transport to enable people to get to their jobs while also highlighting the importance of housing development. In preparing local transport plans, local authorities have to look, particularly now, at how disadvantaged people might get extra services and ensure that they plan public transport accordingly. That is exactly in line with what my hon. Friend said and it is particularly important for former mining areas like ours.

Corsham in my constituency is very much a mining community, having had 13 stone mines, most of which—bar one—have now been closed. Sadly, Dr. Beeching closed our railway station. That creates a problem for new development in the town, particularly by the Ministry of Defence, which is opening a £1 billion new centre in Corsham. We badly need a new station as so many people have to travel by car. Will the Minister join her predecessor in supporting our venture to have a new station in the town of Corsham?

I would be most interested to hear more about the plans for such a local station. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that, in planning well in advance, it is important to look at the integration of transport. Where we have railway stations, we need to ensure that they fit in with local bus transport plans and people’s driving habits, for example.

I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend to her new role in the Government. I would like to raise the issue of interchangeability. We are lucky to have the Penistone line and the Denby Dale station, but unfortunately the trains tend to arrive and leave five minutes before and after the bus arrives, bringing people from Wakefield and Holmfirth. That is a critical issue for people trying to commute. We have had huge problems and the parish council has written to me about that and other bus services being taken away in my rural areas. Will my right hon. Friend look into this and try to get some sense and heads knocked together on the problem?

My hon. Friend is right. If we are to succeed in getting more people on to public transport, it is absolutely right to look at how we achieve proper integration. We want local authorities to look at all modes of travel, particularly through local transport plans, and to ensure that, if necessary, they sit down with the train companies and bus operators to put forward people’s travel patterns. Frankly, it is to everyone’s benefit if they can get that sort of planning right.