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Cross-Border Transport Networks

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 25 June 2009

2. What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues in the devolved Administrations on cross-border improvements to transport networks. (282099)

My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Transport met Stewart Stevenson MSP and John Swinney MSP in April to discuss progress on the Department’s work on High Speed 2 and its potential benefits for Scotland. The Secretary of State has also given evidence to the Scottish Parliament Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee and met Committee members to discuss various matters. Additionally, Ministers in the Department have met Ieuan Wyn Jones AM to discuss Welsh cross-border rail and road issues.

Mr. Speaker, may I congratulate you on your new duties?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. The economic success of devolution is largely dependent on efficient cross-UK transport links. He mentioned that there have been discussions with the Scottish Executive about High Speed 2 and the prospect of a London to Scotland high-speed line, but will he do everything that he can to ensure that this turns into reality and to ensure that devolution brings economic success to Scotland?

I thank my hon. Friend for his supplementary question. High Speed 2 will report to the Government by the end of this year. We have said to the Scottish Government that the High Speed 2 company would be happy to meet them at any point, and we have also recommended that they have a representative on the relevant reference group. We believe in investment, in these challenging times, but we also recognise the benefits of a proposed route that goes all the way to Scotland, rather than stopping in Manchester, as some people have proposed.

Is the Minister aware of the sardine express? It is the Arriva Trains Wales service that goes from Wales to Shropshire, then on to other parts of the United Kingdom. My concern is that people are being crushed into its carriages, because there are often only two carriages when four are required to meet the demand on the line. If there were a sudden halt or accident, far more people would be injured or, possibly, killed as a result of that congestion in the carriages. Will the Minister undertake to meet representatives of Arriva Trains Wales and get an undertaking from them that they will take action to deal with this, as it has been going on for far too long?

The one thing I do not apologise for is longer trains; we need them. The hon. Gentleman raised an important point about the quality of service that passengers receive, which is not good enough on some trains. I am happy to arrange the meeting he mentioned and it would be good if he were present so that he could express and articulate the concerns that his constituents have put to him.

You, Mr. Speaker, will be aware that there is no greater enthusiast for the high-speed line than myself. As the line passes through my Carlisle constituency on the way to Scotland, will the funding be a Scottish or a UK responsibility? The line starts in London and in Glasgow and meets somewhere in the middle.

I thank my hon. Friend for his really helpful question. He will be aware that the Department for Transport is responsible for cross-border franchise train services, and that we work closely with the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Executive. The important thing is to ensure that the quality of service that passengers receive is the right one. It is also important to have proper communications between Members on both sides of the border. There are examples of good practice, but also, I am afraid, of bad practice, but I will endeavour to ensure that we learn the lessons so that the quality of service that passengers receive is seamless.