With your permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Government’s investment plans for our transport networks. During the course of my remarks, hon. Members might find it helpful to refer to the documents that I placed in the Library of the House and the Vote Office a few minutes ago.
As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor explained last week, the decisions that we have taken to cut waste, end lower-priority programmes and reform the welfare system allow us to invest in Britain’s long-term economic growth and to prioritise transport infrastructure to support that growth. We have already announced a green light for Crossrail and for tube upgrades, plans for investment in low-carbon vehicles and recharging infrastructure, and work on a high-speed rail network. Work is continuing on the evaluation of additional investment in major rail projects, and I expect to be able to make an announcement to the House on that in the next few weeks.
Today, I can confirm a programme of investment in our crucial strategic road network, managed by the Highways Agency, and in our local transport networks. We will continue to invest in capital maintenance, spending £5.9 billion over the next four years on unglamorous but important works to maintain the integrity of the network, both strategic and local.
We have also allocated more than £180 million over the four-year period for high-value minor enhancements to the strategic road network. We are taking action to reduce the cost of proposed Highways Agency schemes by re-specifying, renegotiating with suppliers and improving governance and control. Thanks to those decisions, I can confirm that funds will be available for sustainable upgrades to the strategic network to tackle congestion hotspots, delivering network-wide benefits that provide very high returns on investment.
I can confirm today that the eight Highways Agency major schemes currently under way will be funded to completion and open to the public in the next two years. I can also announce today funding for 14 new projects, including the schemes announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor last week, to commence on site by April 2015. These are: the A11 Fiveways dualling; the M4 and M5 junction north of Bristol; the M6 between junctions 5 and 8 in Birmingham; the M62 between junctions 25 and 30 near Leeds; three schemes on the M1 between Derbyshire and Wakefield from junctions 28 to 31, 32 to 35A and 39 to 42; four schemes around Manchester from junctions 8 to 12 and from 12 to 15 on the M60; junctions 18 to 20 on the M62 and from Knutsford to Bowdon on the A556; improvement of the A23 between Handcross and Warninglid; the completion of the upgrading of the M25 with a managed motorway scheme for peak time hard-shoulder running between junctions 23 and 27 and between junctions 5 and 7. Those essential investments will cut congestion, improve journey times and, most importantly, support economic growth. Every pound we spend on these schemes will generate on average £6 of benefits.
I can also confirm that work will continue on developing a further set of Highways Agency schemes ready to start in the next spending review period if funds become available. A detailed list is included in the documents I referred to earlier. There is also one last group of four current Highways Agency schemes that will be reviewed to see if they still represent value for money and can be progressed for the next spending review period.
Important as strategic roads are to the national economy, many of the highest value-for-money proposals are those that address the needs of the local road and public transport infrastructure that supports the economies of our cities, towns and rural areas. That is why, last week, we announced our commitment to completing major local projects worth more than £600 million—including measures to improve access to Weymouth in time for the Olympics and acceleration of work on the Tees Valley bus network, and, I can confirm, the intention to invest up to £350 million to complete the upgrade of the Tyne and Wear metro.
We have also announced our intention to proceed with private finance initiative schemes to extend the Nottingham tram network and deliver sustained improvements in highways maintenance in Sheffield, Hounslow and the Isle of Wight. My Department will work urgently with the four local authorities concerned to ensure that we can deliver these schemes within the available funding.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor also announced last week that we will invest more than £900 million over the next four years on new local authority major schemes: including a new bridge over the Mersey at Runcorn, partly funded by tolls; improving access to Leeds station; and extending the Midland Metro tram line from Snow Hill to New Street through Birmingham city centre.
I can confirm today that a further seven major local authority projects have also been given the green light, subject to planning and other approvals. They are: a new bus interchange and associated transport improvements in Mansfield; a new bypass, which will take traffic away from communities in Sefton; an integrated package of sustainable transport improvements in Ipswich; major improvements to the M5 at junction 29 east of Exeter, providing access to new housing and employment areas; a bypass to the north of Lancaster, improving connections between the port of Heysham and the M6; improvements on the A57 east of the M1 junction 31, near Todwick; and a new northern distributor road in Taunton to provide additional cross-town capacity and access to areas of brownfield land.
Those schemes, worth about £300 million in total, have been selected from a pool of projects with proven business cases. They are listed as supported schemes and shaded green in the list to which I referred earlier. Our duty, however, is to ensure that every pound that is spent is essential. Even with those priority schemes, I expect the local authority promoters to work with my Department to ensure that every opportunity for cost saving has been taken and every source of alternative contributions has been fully explored before funding is confirmed in January next year.
Although the House will welcome the decisions, Members on both sides of the House will want to know how we propose to handle the remaining schemes. The £600 million plus remaining for additional new projects, after the announcements already made, demonstrates the importance that we attach to local authority major schemes, but it will not be enough to fund all the schemes proposed by local authorities. In the list that I have placed in the Library, I have included all currently submitted schemes, including three that previously had conditional approval and that we will now seek to progress to full approval, showing how we propose to categorise each of them.
For 22 schemes, for which my Department has completed a value-for-money assessment in the past four years, we will invite best and final funding bids from the development pool—the schemes shaded amber in the list. Promoters will be challenged by my Department to consider the scope of the scheme, its cost, lower-cost alternatives and their ability to contribute more locally. Those who can make the best case are the most likely to receive funding, which will be confirmed by the end of 2011.
Further analysis will be carried out on another 34 schemes, for which the Department does not currently have an up-to-date assessment, to determine whether they can go forward to join the development pool and bid for a share of the £600 million plus of funds available. Those schemes are shaded blue on the list. A decision will be made by January 2011.
This competitive process will ensure that the greatest possible number of schemes, with the best value for money, will be able to proceed, facilitating economic growth and creating jobs across the country. Under regional funding allocations, regional and local bodies were encouraged by the previous Government to identify a large number of schemes for longer-term prioritisation. Many of those were in the early stages of development, with no business cases submitted to the Department for Transport before the cut-off that we announced on 10 June this year.
In the longer term, I want such decisions on local transport priorities to be taken out of Whitehall and placed in the hands of local people. My Department will work with the emerging local enterprise partnerships and local authorities to identify the best approach to local decision making on future transport priorities.
I have set out our decisions and what they mean for our strategic and local transport networks. The measures will help to deliver long-term, sustainable and affordable economic growth in this country. The difficult choices made by the Government have allowed us to invest in the future. I commend the statement to the House.
May I begin by thanking the right hon. Gentleman for sending my office a copy of his statement in advance? Helpfully, he also placed a copy of the document to which he has been referring in the Vote Office. On my way in, I saw what looked like a bus queue there, because the document was late—a bit like some buses. None the less, it is better late than never. Members on both sides of the House will be grateful to have had sight, at least before he began his statement, of a copy of the document showing what has happened to the schemes.
This is the first time that the right hon. Gentleman and I have faced each other across the Dispatch Box, and I look forward to further such exchanges. We have at least one thing in common: he does not want to be in his current job because he would rather be the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and I do not want to be in my job, because I would rather be in his job—in a Labour Government of course. We will see which one of us gets what we want first.
I welcome the confirmation of the projects that the Secretary of State listed in his statement. They were planned by the last Government, and I am pleased that he has recognised the need for that vital investment to be protected. Let me say at the outset that we have pledged to be a responsible Opposition, and that when I agree with the Secretary of State, I will support him and work with him. Transport is critical to our national interest, and investment in infrastructure is vital to our construction industry and the rebalancing of our economy from financial to real engineering. To the extent that we can find common ground, I certainly intend to ensure that we work together.
As a north-west Member of Parliament, I especially welcome the confirmation of much of the funding that the last Government agreed for the second Mersey crossing between Runcorn and Widnes and the electrification of rail lines between Lime Street, Manchester, Preston and Blackpool, which will mean more reliable, greener services with more capacity and reduced journey times. Those projects are vital to the regional economy, and it is absolutely right for them to proceed.
While Members on both sides of the House will welcome the commitments made today to a wide range of important transport infrastructure projects, the statement raises a number of questions. The main purpose of the schemes is to tackle congestion, yet at the same time the Secretary of State has announced hikes in rail fares that may well drive people on to the roads. Indeed, I believe that they will. Does the Secretary of State accept that lifting the cap on regulated rail fares and allowing them to rise to 3% above inflation from one year to the next will further squeeze hard-working people who commute? Many have already been hit by cuts, including cuts in child benefit, and they are about to face a increase in the VAT rate to 20%, an increase in employees’ national insurance contributions, and, if they are in the public sector, an increase of 3% in their pension contributions. Just how much more can commuters be expected to take?
Does the Secretary of State accept that, according to the assumptions on inflation by the Office for Budget Responsibility, the increase means that commuter fares will rise by 33.6% by 2015? That will simply drive people off the railways and back on to our already congested roads. His predecessor as spokesperson in opposition, the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers)—who is present—said that a 3% rise in fares would be enough to
“price people off the railways”.—[Official Report, 17 July 2007; Vol. 463, c. 149.]
What does he think that a 33.6% increase will do?
Why did the Secretary of State argue in an interview with The Times on Saturday that the fare rises would be 10% over four years? He said:
“If you are paying £1000 for your season ticket now, it could cost you £1100 at the end of the period”.
I know that, as he told The Times, the Secretary of State loves his Jaguar—I love Jaguars as well, especially as they are built in my constituency—but let me tell him that a season ticket from Weybridge to London costs £2,272 today, and that, as a result of these fare rises, it could cost £3,035 by 2015. Someone who aspires to be Chief Secretary to the Treasury should be able to tell that that increase is much more than 10%.
How many of the schemes that the Secretary of State has announced today will, under the revised plans, be completed later than was originally intended? What percentage of the cost of those schemes will now be covered by the current spending review, and how many will see their completion delayed until the next? What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the economic impact of the delays on jobs, growth and competitiveness? How many of the schemes have been approved on the basis of the original proposals that he inherited, and which of them have been scaled back? What are the implications of that for each scheme?
What consultation has been carried out with local government and local communities about any changes to the schemes? What percentage and amount have been moved from Government expenditure to PFI? Has the Secretary of State completed any assessment of the impact of the reduction in transport capital expenditure on our wider transport networks? What assessment has he made of the impact on our road network, and likely increases in congestion, of the significant increases in train fares and the cuts in local bus services that the comprehensive spending review set out? What assurance can he give us that these schemes will lead to high-quality manufacturing jobs in the United Kingdom, with contracts being secured by British industry?
Finally, does the Secretary of State agree that it was quite wrong of him to spin his comprehensive spending review settlement as a huge victory? Is not the reality that he over-spun his settlement? I have here an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies of the impact of the CSR on Government Departments. Helpfully, it has listed Departments as winners and losers, and I am sorry to have to tell the Secretary of State that the IFS says he is a loser.
The impression given by the Secretary of State is that cuts in his budget have no impact on capital investment. However, on top of the 21% reduction in resource spending, there is to be an 11% cut in spending on capital. That is 11% less spent on vital infrastructure, so it is quite wrong for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that he has somehow secured a great victory or that spending is not being cut. No doubt we will have many more exchanges across the Dispatch Box, not least when the right hon. Gentleman announces his rail investment proposals.
The Labour party aspires to have an integrated transport policy. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can in future have an integrated transport statement and tell us about all the investment on the same day.
I thank the hon. Lady for her comments and welcome her to the Dispatch Box. I welcome the tone of her initial remarks at least; I am sorry it degenerated a bit towards the end. I am also sorry to have to tell her that I cannot write as quickly as she can ask questions so I am not sure that I took them all down, but I will try to deal with some of the issues she raised.
On the departmental settlement, frankly I think it is a bit rich for the hon. Lady to say that an 11% reduction in transport capital expenditure is a disastrous settlement, because when her Government were in office they were planning a 50% cut in total public capital expenditure. In the comprehensive spending review, the Government had to take difficult decisions about what to prioritise. The Department for Transport faced the smallest reduction in capital expenditure of any Department and it now has the second largest capital budget in the Government. I would have thought that the hon. Lady would welcome that as a way of protecting transport infrastructure investment.
The hon. Lady asked about rail fares, and although today’s statement is not primarily about railways I am happy to deal with that issue. Of course I would have preferred not to raise the cap on regulated fare increases, but we faced a choice between going ahead with the investment in additional capacity to reduce overcrowding and improve the attractiveness of the railways to passengers or increasing fares, and I took the decision that the right long-term solution was to increase fares for a period of three years. But let me be clear: I agree with the hon. Lady that fares cannot increase indefinitely, and the medium-term solution to the challenge on our railways has to be getting the cost base down so that the railways are affordable for both passengers and the taxpayer, who supports the railways through subsidy.
The hon. Lady asked whether the schemes announced today would be completed later than originally planned. Most of these schemes did not have a specific timetable, but I can tell her this: over the next four years transport investment will be greater in cash terms than it was over the last four years, so we are not talking about some massive rescheduling of the programme.
The hon. Lady asked about consultation with local government. All the local authority schemes I mentioned today were, of course, proposed by local authority sponsors, and there is constant dialogue between local authorities and my Department. In line with Mr Speaker’s recommendations, we have made this statement first to the House of Commons, but local authorities will be informed during the course of today of what I have said about their schemes, and we will now engage in intensive dialogue with them as we take these proposals forward.
We believe that investment in highway infrastructure and local transport schemes is crucial to making the UK an attractive place for manufacturing investment, both indigenous and inward. As the hon. Lady knows, I cannot promise her that the jobs created directly by this investment will go to UK providers because the schemes will be subject to the European procurement directive rules and will have to be tendered in an open and transparent way, but I am sure that our announcements today will support the revival of the UK manufacturing base, which is critical to this country’s future.
While I welcome, after years of dithering by the last Administration, a decision on the extension of the tram network in Nottingham—one of the routes passes through my constituency—please will the Secretary of State look at Nottingham city council’s plans for a workplace parking levy? I also ask him to consider the effect of that levy on jobs in my constituency. Boots employs more than 7,500 people at the Beeston site. The workplace parking levy will threaten jobs throughout greater Nottingham.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her remarks. I know that the Nottingham tramway is not universally popular and that the workplace parking levy is even less so. However, if we are serious about a localism agenda, we will find that sometimes, perhaps often, the things that elected local authorities choose to do on behalf of local residents are not always in accordance with our own preferences and priorities. That is in the nature of localism, and I embrace it.
I welcome the positive parts of the statement, but there are major problems relating to the very important strategic schemes currently funded and identified through regional allocations. Does the Secretary of State agree with his statement to the Select Committee on Transport that structures wider than local economic partnerships would be necessary to examine such schemes in the future? Does he still maintain that this will bring more localism, given that we are told that future schemes of this nature will be funded partly through the regional growth fund and that decisions on that fund are to be taken entirely nationally?
I am glad that the hon. Lady has raised the issue of the regional growth fund. It is important to reiterate that that fund will be open to transport projects; they will be able to bid for funding from it. However, that is not in substitution for the very significant allocations that I have announced today—it is in addition. I hope that some of the smaller local authority schemes, in particular, may be worked up as bids to the regional growth fund.
The hon. Lady talks about local enterprise partnerships. As I said in my statement, my objective is to move to a system that more clearly allows local communities and local authorities to determine how the funding allocated to their area should be spent. The previous Government introduced the regional funding allocation system. The mechanisms through which that was intermediated are now to be abolished, along with the regional structure of government. What I said to the Select Committee and repeat today is that my Department will carefully examine the LEPs as they come into being. Of course they are a bottom-up structure, rather than a top-down one, so different LEPs will look different. We will need to see how they are organised and whether they are on a sufficiently strategic scale to be allocated transport funding individually or whether we might ask them to form strategic alliances with other LEPs as a basis for transport funding over relevant geographical areas.
Order. May I just inform hon. Members that a large number of you want to get in, so by asking a short question to the Minister and receiving a short answer you will help each other enormously in ensuring that all the points are made? I call Martin Horwood.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I also thank the Secretary of State for the advance notice of his statement that was given to me? I welcome the overall investment that he has announced today, his commitment to local decision making and, specifically, the investment in road maintenance, rail, light rail, trams and locally integrated transport schemes. I am sure that those will be welcomed across the country. As a Gloucestershire Member— I am sure that he will have expected me to say this—I regret that the redoubling of the Swindon to Kemble line has not been included in any of the documents, despite being a highly economic and economically very important scheme. May I ask him whether or not that is precisely the kind of scheme that in future local communities will be able to express as a priority under the localism agenda that he has talked about, and whether or not he agrees with me—
The Swindon to Kemble project, which my hon. Friend mentions, was uniquely the only Network Rail scheme brought forward under the regional funding allocation system. It had not submitted a business case to the Department before the cut-off date of 10 June, but it is the type of scheme that might be put forward in a future locally prioritised funding process. Alternatively, it might be submitted as a proposal for control period 5 in the Network Rail settlement from 2015.
Will the Secretary of State provide some clarification of the Prime Minister’s comments at the CBI yesterday—reported in today’s media—where he seemed to give a commitment to building the Thames gateway bridge, which, as the Secretary of State will be aware, was abandoned by Mayor Boris when he was first elected? That seems to suggest a lack of communication between City Hall and No. 10. People in south-east London are demanding that something be done about the daily congestion that builds up at the Blackwall tunnel. If the Secretary of State is in communication with the Mayor, will he consider that option since many local people are demanding that something be done about that daily nightmare?
I have not seen my right hon. Friend’s speech, but I suspect that he was referring to the statement made last week about the Dartford crossing, where we have made the tough decision to increase charges. We have also made a commitment that the crossing will not be sold, as the previous Government proposed, and that we will work up proposals for additional capacity crossing the Thames at or in the region of that area.
I welcome the upgrading of the Blackpool tramway and the many other infrastructure improvements in the north-west that will remove barriers to economic growth. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the work of the Northern Way, which has provided such an excellent evidence base to help with the quality of transport policy making in the north? What role does he see the Northern Way playing as we go forward in ensuring that we have excellent quality data on which to judge policy?
May I tell the Secretary of State that the Coventry and Warwickshire travel-to-work area runs on a north-south axis and, despite the congested state of the roads and the existence of a railway, a fraction of 1% of the journeys take place by rail? That is why the Coventry to Nuneaton rail upgrade is so important. It seems that he has put us in the waiting room for the waiting room and that we have only until January, to save the scheme at all. I have no doubt that if the Coventry and Warwickshire local enterprise partnership was up and running, that would be the top priority for it, but will the Secretary of State advise us how on earth, when that LEP is not even in existence yet, we can impress on his Department the importance of this scheme and get it into a state for approval before January? I would like some advice.
To clarify, the scheme to which the right hon. Gentleman refers is one in the pool of projects submitted to the Department before the cut-off date that we announced in June, but it has not yet been appraised by the Department. The Department will now make a rapid assessment of the scheme—the right hon. Gentleman asserts that it is extremely high value for money, but I can tell him that the promoter of every single scheme that I have come across asserts that their scheme is high value for money. A number of these schemes will then be accelerated into the development pool so that we can do further work on them with the promoters during 2011 with a view to allocating funding at the end of 2011. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), that if a rail scheme is not successful in this funding process, it will of course be possible for it to be put forward as a proposal for the next control period of Network Rail’s capital enhancement settlement.
For years, Yorkshire and the Humber has had some of the lowest per capita transport funding in the country, so I welcome the investment in Yorkshire and the Humber today and specifically the two schemes in the Humber area—the A63 Castle street and the A161—that are likely candidates for funding into the future. May I ask the Secretary of State whether he will take into account when making a final decision the massive investment that is going into the ports on both the north and south banks of the Humber? Will he also give us any further details of when a final decision will be taken on whether those schemes will be funded?
Transport funding in Yorkshire and the Humber is now about average, although I accept the comments that my hon. Friend has made about historical levels of funding. The two schemes to which he referred will not be funded during the current spending review period but they will continue to be worked on as schemes for funding in a future spending review period, as and when funding becomes available. The appraisal model that the Department uses will take account of the effects that he talks about and the external benefits that can be delivered.
In reassessing the M54-M6 toll road, will the Secretary of State take into account travel times? Over the years, travel times between London and Scotland have seemed to be increasing. Will he take that factor into account?
Travel times and potential journey savings are one of the key factors that the current model takes into account. The M54-M6 toll link is in the group of schemes that will be reassessed, because the Department needs to reassure itself that the value-for-money case for the scheme still applies.
I am delighted that funding for “Ipswich—Transport Fit for the 21st Century” is being brought forward, a decision on which the previous Administration dithered, and I thank the Secretary of State for having regard to my many letters to him on the matter. Will he describe in greater detail the hurdles over which the county council now needs to leap to achieve funding in January?
The Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), will be in Ipswich tomorrow to examine the scheme, when there will no doubt be an opportunity to discuss those issues with the promoters. Of course, the promoters will need to obtain any necessary planning and other statutory consents to allow schemes to go ahead. We will engage with the local authority promoters to ensure that any unnecessary cost has been squeezed out of the scheme and that every opportunity to secure supporting non-public-source funding has been explored and exhausted. By doing that, we will ensure that the total pool of schemes that we can support is as large as possible and that the economic benefits to the economy as a whole are as great as possible. We will undertake that work with the local authority promoters as a matter of urgency.
I thank the Secretary of State for receiving a delegation from Coventry on the Nuneaton to Coventry line, which is better known as the NUCKLE project. Further to the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North East (Mr Ainsworth), the scheme has been around for several years, and I appreciate the fact that it is still in the running. Even under the previous Government—we had a go at them—officials kept knocking the scheme back for a variety of reasons. Will the Secretary of State assure me that the scheme will get a fair wind this time round?
The Bath transportation package is now in the development grouping. Some aspects of the scheme are unacceptable to many people, including me, but I stress to the Secretary of State that modest Government support would deliver in Bath £2.5 billion of public investment, the largest brownfield development site outside London, 7,000 new jobs and 2,500 new homes. When he is judging what constitutes the best case for success, will he assure me that he will include the potential for economic growth?
Indeed I can. As I made clear in my statement, potential for economic growth is one of the key priorities in allocating funding. I am also aware that many schemes do not have 100% support for the currently proposed solution in the communities that they serve. Where there are ideas about how a scheme might be differently presented and how costs might be taken out in order to make a scheme more attractive and thus significantly more likely to secure funding, the Department will be interested to hear about them in the course of the process.
The Secretary of State says that he wants to move to local decision making, but I can tell him that local people, local authorities, local MPs on both sides of the House and local businesses all want the A453 widening to go ahead, and we produced a dossier to him to explain why. Does he accept that his decision to shelve the scheme until at least 2015 will be a kick in the teeth for our regional economy, local businesses and the job creation we so clearly need?
Dear, dear! I must be going deaf, because I did not hear the hon. Lady mention the Nottingham tramway or the ring-road improvement. Far from being a kick in the teeth for Nottingham, this very carefully made decision prioritises the projects with the highest value for money. Whether she likes it or not, the ring road showed a much higher return per pound of taxpayers’ money—
The hon. Gentleman says that, but it runs through his constituency; there is no pleasing some people. The ring road showed a much higher return per pound of taxpayers’ money spent than did the A453 scheme. However, the A453 scheme is in the development pool and we will continue to work on it. As the hon. Lady will know, the scheme has some powerful advocates who regularly make the case for it to me.
I applaud the criteria by which the Secretary of State has chosen to decide which projects should go ahead, but on the basis of sustainability, affordability, economic growth, cutting congestion and, I add, road safety, for what reason has the A1 Leeming to Barton project been cancelled? It was widely expected that it would go ahead to increase road safety, reduce road deaths and increase economic growth, and it is a major national road artery.
Decisions on the cancellation of Highways Agency schemes were made after very careful analysis of the business cases and a realistic appraisal of the likely envelope of funding not only in this spending review period but in the next one and the one beyond. It would be very easy to stand here and say that nothing is cancelled, but I do not want to encourage further spending on schemes that have no realistic prospect of going forward within the next 10 years, as that money could be spent on live schemes and getting work done rather than on people sitting in Highways Agency offices designing and redesigning schemes that will never happen. We have had to take some tough decisions, but I am quite confident that we have taken the right ones.
Rochdale interchange, which is more commonly known, in Rochdale at least, as Rochdale bus station, is still in the amber list of schemes. The Secretary of State will be aware that it has cross-party support across Rochdale, but is he aware of its importance to the redevelopment of Rochdale town centre?
I am aware of the importance that the local authority and local people attach to the scheme. I am sure that in defining it as Rochdale interchange they were seeking to talk up its importance. Might I suggest that they call it Rochdale international interchange to raise its game a little further?
As the Secretary of State has already recognised that the A1 is a road of national strategic importance and as the design work to dual two of its worst sections has already been done, can that scheme be brought forward in one of the future spending rounds?
I am afraid that that scheme is some way off at the moment. At a point in the future that we will define in due course we will reopen the programme entry system so that new proposals can be made by local authorities or by the Highways Agency for future consideration, but I repeat that I do not want to have hundreds of schemes with thousands of civil servants working on them and no realistic prospect of getting on site.
The Sunderland strategic transport corridor, which includes the new bridge over the River Wear, will be crucial in bringing jobs to Sunderland and securing the economic regeneration of the region. What reassurance can the Secretary of State offer to the people of Sunderland that those important factors will be considered given that he accepts that the scheme offers value for money?
I can give the hon. Lady the assurance that the factors she mentions are indeed taken into account in the model. As I hope I made clear this afternoon, the whole aim of the Government in focusing on supporting infrastructure investment, and particularly transport investment, at a time when public expenditure is under extreme pressure, is to use transport infrastructure investment as a way of stimulating economic development and of coaxing it into areas that most need it. I recognise Sunderland’s claim, but as the hon. Lady will understand, this project is one of many in the development pool, so applicants will have to sharpen their pencil, think through their scheme and put their best proposal forward; then we will make a decision.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on his successful negotiations with the Treasury, and I welcome the fact that both Mansfield bus station and the Hucknall town centre improvement scheme are in the development pool. What criteria will the Secretary of State and his Department use to distinguish those schemes in the development pool that will move forward from those that will not?
The Department uses a set of criteria wider than simply measuring the benefit-cost ratios—monetisable benefits currently add up to exactly 50% of the weight in the multi-criteria analysis that we perform. We also look at wider network benefits, regional balance, the impact on economic development over a wide area, and landscape impacts and wider environmental benefits and disbenefits, so it is quite a wide-ranging scheme. Details are available on the Department for Transport website.
My question is on the funding of the Mersey Gateway between Runcorn and Widnes. It would be useful if the Secretary of State said whether he has determined the planning application, because the project depends on that as well, but my specific question is about the fact that he said in the statement that funding would be agreed in January. Does that mean that Halton borough council will be given funding to start work before 2015, and what savings is he looking for? A crucial element of this is tolls, which clearly must be at an acceptable level. We must remember that the current bridge is untolled and is a local road, so there is no scope for further income from tolls. There must be support from the Government through the funding arrangements.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s comments. I have followed the scheme with particularly close interest, because it is a very innovative proposal by a local authority. It is a very big scheme for a local authority to propose, and it proposes to toll an existing road—never an easy thing to do in terms of local public opinion, so I commend it for being prepared to take difficult decisions. But with all the schemes that we have said today we will support, it is only appropriate that we sit down with local authorities, go through the numbers, go through the specifications and see whether there is any more cost to be driven out. Some schemes are sitting in the Department’s books with an estimate of costs that was made in 2007. A lot has changed in the contracting market since then, and we want to ensure that right the way down the supply chain everyone is feeling the pressure that we are feeling as public spending is constrained—that we get the very best value for every pound of taxpayers’ money. We will work with the local authority to ensure that that is the case.
The decision to postpone the work on junction 30 will be met with much dismay by my constituents in Thurrock, whose road network is very regularly clogged up by congestion caused by junction 30. It is also a major cause of disruption for users of the Dartford crossing. In view of that, does my right hon. Friend really think it fair to be considering increasing charges for the Dartford crossing?
Yes. My right hon. Friend is referring to junction 30 of the M25, a scheme that we cannot envisage being able to finance during the current spending review period but on which we will continue to do work with a view to development in future spending review periods. She will be aware of the interface with the proposals for the port development being progressed by Dubai Ports World, whereby funding contributions may be available to support some of the junction 30 improvement at some point in the future, depending on the progress of the port development. So the position with that project is slightly more complex.
I am pleased to hear Government Members, particularly the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) and the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh), arguing in favour of the upgrading of the A1 north of Leeming. It is a crucial link for economic development in the north-east, and my constituents can conclude only that the Government looked at the link and decided that the north-east just is not worth it.
The announcements made both today and last week by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor have contained significant investments in the north-east, but I have to tell the hon. Lady that we consider all these schemes objectively. From memory, I think that the A1 Leeming to Barton scheme had a benefit-cost ratio of less than two, and it is not a scheme that we can envisage being able to fund in the current circumstances during this spending review.
My constituents will warmly welcome the planned improvements to the M25 between junctions 23 and 27, which will play a significant part in our regeneration plans along the eastern corridor. Will my right hon. Friend also consider taking representations both from the local authority and me, as we are keen, with an eye to the future, to see the northern gateway access road, which will additionally provide greater infrastructure for our growing needs?
I hope that my office told my hon. Friend that I visited the M25, including junctions 23 to 27, this morning, and jolly wet, windy and congested it was, so I am sure that the scheme will be most welcome. I am not aware that we have received a funding bid for the northern gateway scheme. As I said earlier, speculative schemes that are not already in the system will now have to wait until we announce a further round of bidding, and then there will be an opportunity to bid for further schemes in future spending review periods.
I am sure that the Secretary of State will understand my disappointment that the junction schemes on both sides of the Tyne tunnel have been shelved for the time being. Those junctions are important. The Tyne tunnel is in the process of being dualled, which will encourage substantially more traffic in the area, and the junctions are needed to keep the traffic flowing. Will he meet me and my hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mrs Glindon), whose constituency is also affected by the increase in traffic, so that we can discuss these issues?
I welcome the fact that value for money is being confirmed for the Bristol bus rapid transit scheme from Ashton Vale, which is in your constituency, Madam Deputy Speaker, to Bristol Temple Meads, which is in mine. However, following what the Secretary of State said earlier about localism, will he agree to look favourably on local authorities such as Bristol that wish to introduce a levy on workplace parking in the future, so that money raised locally can be matched with the limited resources that are now available nationally?
Where local authorities wish to impose workplace parking levies, they need the Secretary of State’s approval under current legislation. It is, of course, up to local authorities to promote such schemes if they feel that they are appropriate for their areas, but I have said recently that I would expect any further schemes proposed to me to demonstrate that they have properly and effectively consulted local businesses and addressed any proper concerns raised by local businesses during those consultations. So perhaps my hon. Friend can feed that back to Bristol city council.
The Leeds rail growth package included a new railway station at Kirkstall Forge. Half of the money was to come from the private sector and would have facilitated private sector housing and business development, bringing hundreds of jobs and homes to one of the most deprived parts of the city. Why has the scheme, which the right hon. Gentleman says is good value for money, been sent back to the drawing board, with devastating prospects for jobs and homes in my constituency?
Dear, dear, it must be my ears again. I did not hear the hon. Lady mention the Leeds station southern access scheme, which has been approved—[Interruption] If I may say so to the hon. Lady, when one’s constituency is in a city, I think one will find that the effects of transport infrastructure improvement are a little wider than the narrow boundaries of a single constituency. Leeds station southern access scheme has been approved, and two further Leeds schemes, the Leeds rail growth package and the Leeds new generation transport scheme, have been included in the development pool, where we will work with the local authority to look at how we can ensure value for money and get the schemes into the best and most competitive form that they can be, after which we will make a decision on the allocation of the scarce capital that is available. I want to remind the hon. Lady one more time that the transport capital budget has been reduced by 11% for the next four years. The Government formed by her party before the last general election proposed to reduce capital spending by 50%.
I thank the Secretary of State for the improvement that he has made to fairer transport funding for my region, Yorkshire and Humber. May I ask him about the time scales for best and final funding bids for the schemes in the development pool? Will he look closely at the Access York park and ride bid, which will be crucial to the local economy?
Access to York park and ride is included in that group of schemes. As I announced earlier, we intend to take decisions on which of those schemes will be funded by the end of 2011. We will work proactively with the local authorities sponsoring those schemes from now, and we will make decisions as we are able to do so, not necessarily in a single announcement at the end of 2011. It may be possible to announce some conclusions earlier than that.
To try to take the positives out of the statement, I welcome the go-ahead for Sheffield’s PFI highway maintenance scheme and the amber light for the additional vehicles for Supertram. I understand that the passenger transport executive has proposed that the scheme should go hand in hand with the tram-train trial, as there will be cost savings from purchasing the vehicles together. That scheme is not mentioned in the statement. It could utilise under-used rail lines, get vehicles into the heart of the city and act as a pilot for the rest of the country. Will that scheme go ahead as well?
I understand that my ministerial colleagues are aware of the scheme to which the hon. Gentleman refers and are actively looking at it, but it is the Supertram additional vehicles scheme that has been included in the development pool. If it is clear that there are synergies from linking this scheme to another scheme, it makes sense to examine that. I want to be pragmatic. If we can save money, I would certainly like to look at the opportunities to do so.
Although I am delighted to see that so many schemes have been approved for Devon, I know that my constituents and those in Totnes and Torbay will be disappointed that the Kingskerswell bypass is only in the pre-qualification pool, because the value for money is not clear. Will the Minister meet me and representatives of the other two constituencies and Devon county council to go through the criteria that the Treasury and the Department for Transport have set out, so that we can understand why value for money is not clear and make the right representations?
My hon. Friend might have slightly misunderstood the pre-qualification pool. It is not that the Kingskerswell bypass does not meet the value for money criteria; it is that the Department does not have an up-to-date appraisal of the scheme. It will therefore now carry out a rapid assessment in which value for money will be one of the primary considerations. There will be opportunities for her local authority to engage with officials in the Department—I am sure they are already engaged. I know that she has had discussions already with my the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), and I am sure he would be happy to have further discussions with her.
The cuts mean dark days ahead for the north-east, and they will be even darker now, with the decision to axe the Durham and Stockton street lighting PFI scheme, which would have made our streets lighter, brighter and safer. Why is the north-east and my constituency, which has already lost its new hospital and Building Schools for the Future programme, in the Government’s sights for yet another major cut?
We have confirmed the massive funding for the Nexus metro upgrade. The issue is not about cuts, but about investing where the best value for money can be delivered, and the Tees Valley bus scheme will be accelerated to provide additional and early support to the towns in the Tees valley. The PFI scheme to which the hon. Gentleman refers is simply no longer affordable. These PFI schemes, as he will know, are very expensive and would involve the Department committing for 30 years to a significant revenue stream, which it is just not sensible and prudent in the current environment.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the statement and, particularly, for his investment in the southern access to Leeds station, which will help to regenerate the southern part of the city. When he assesses the trolley bus system, will he look at the fact that, when it comes to an integrated transport system, Leeds has been led down the garden path for the past 20 years? I ask him to give significant consideration to that, because once people get into Leeds we need to get them around the city.
Secondly, I support some of the comments that the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) made—perhaps not in the same way as I would have—with regard to the Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge project, which would not only release significant amounts of private investment, but help to relieve significant congestion in some of the busiest parts of the city.
Both schemes to which my hon. Friend refers are in the development pool, and I urge him to urge his local authority to engage very seriously with that process, to sharpen the pencil, to think innovatively and to come back with a funding bid that puts those schemes in the vanguard and ensures that they are funded when we appraise the bids
I welcome the news that the Thornton to Switch Island relief road will be funded, but will the Minister clarify what he means by revised funding bids from local authorities? Sefton council has already put almost £6 million towards the project and is “maxed” up to the limit, so to speak, so it is difficult to see how it could find further funds. However, in response to an earlier question the Minister said that money might be released from savings elsewhere. Could that money be used to reduce Sefton’s overall bill? Does he see it going up or down?
I can safely say that any local authority that comes back with a revised bid offering less local contribution is unlikely to be looked upon favourably. The Thornton to Switch Island link is a very high value scheme, delivering staggeringly high benefits for every unit of cost, but even so it is right that we sit down with the local authority and look at the cost estimates. As I said a few moments ago, some were done at a time when the contracting market for construction works was much firmer than it is now, and we must ensure that every opportunity to drive out cost and drive up value for the taxpayer has been taken. That is what the process will be. It will not take very long, because we expect to be able to undertake the work over the next couple of months and to confirm funding in January.
Order. We have taken 30 Members’ contributions so far, and the statement is running rather longer than it should. I really would try to persuade Members to ask very short questions, because then we will get everybody in. I shall not call anybody who came in after the statement was given.
I welcome the statement and the Government’s commitment to invest in our transport infrastructure. In doing so, I should like to be a little parochial, however, and mention the Coventry-Nuneaton rail upgrade, which will be extremely important in opening up further job opportunities for my constituents in Nuneaton, many of whom depend on Coventry for their employment. Is the Secretary of State willing to meet me to discuss that vital project, along with officials from Warwickshire county council?
That is the third representation that we have had on the Coventry-Nuneaton rail upgrade this afternoon. I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend, and may I tempt him to include Opposition Members who have an interest in this? He and they are welcome to come along and talk about it.
Does the Minister understand the concern that he will cause in Luton and the surrounding areas by his shelving of the A5-M1 link road to the north of Luton, which is vital not only for improving transport but for solving our housing problems? Those housing problems will be even more acute in the coming years because of the coalition’s policies, which will force London residents out to places such as Luton.
The A5-M1 link road has not been shelved: it is a scheme on which we will do further development work. From memory, the issue involves the possibility of a significant developer contribution and the building of the road will open up significant amounts of developable land. We will need to do some further work to ensure that we extract the maximum possible developer contribution and that the public purse is not left to pick up a cost that should properly be borne by the private sector.
May I declare an interest as a member of Portsmouth city council? I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and commend to him the scheme for the Tipner interchange, which is in the pre-qualification pool. This scheme already has planning permission and is up and ready to go. It would generate thousands of jobs and create up to 2,500 homes. May I ask for the rapid transportation of that scheme from the qualification pool to the development pool in January, so that we can have a decision in the middle of next year?
I thank the Minister for agreeing to meet my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr Hepburn) and me, and I welcome the upgrade of the Tyne and Wear metro, but people need jobs to travel to. The A19 corridor is crucial to the north-east’s economic development. Given the importance of the tunnel opening in 2011 and the two junctions on either side being improved, will the Minister increase the size of the meeting to include some business people and councillors who will also be able to make that case ably?
I am always happy to hear from the business lobby and the most convincing arguments often come from members of the business community. The hon. Lady makes the case that investment in transport infrastructure is good for economic development, job creation and inward investment. We know all that; the problem is that we have to prioritise the capital funding that we have available. The only fair way to do that is to look at the value for money that different schemes return for taxpayers’ funding and ensure that we prioritise them accordingly.
Harlow commuters will welcome the expansion of the M25 up to the M11, but the Minister will be aware of my Westminster Hall debate earlier this year in which I called for an extra M11 junction, which our town desperately needs. It would cost up to £25 million, and Essex county council is undertaking a £500,000 study of that project. What hope can he give my hard-pressed commuters that that scheme will be considered in the future?
I commend my hon. Friend for his tenacity. I know that he campaigned on this issue for many years before he arrived in this place, and he will no doubt continue to campaign on it for many years to come. The scheme is not currently on the list that I have published today and, as I have said to other hon. Members, it will be some time before we open the list to additional bids for future spending review periods. I do not want to encourage local authorities to spend significant sums of taxpayers’ money on schemes that I know we will not be able to fund in the foreseeable future.
On “Question Time” last week, the Secretary of State raised expectations in the north-east on the Intercity Express programme and the potential for the building of a factory by Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe in my constituency. How long will we have to wait for a decision on that? It has raised expectations in the area, but will we get a response before Christmas?
I hope so. I said at the beginning of my statement, but perhaps I was being obtuse, that other major rail projects are under consideration, and I hope to be able to make an announcement to the House in the next few weeks. The Intercity Express programme is one of those under consideration. As the hon. Gentleman will know, it is an extremely complex package of projects, and the new bid that we have received from Agility Trains requires careful analysis at a technical, financial and legal level. That work is ongoing, and once we have completed it, I will be in a position to make an announcement.
The Kingskerswell bypass in my constituency has been tantalisingly close to approval for half a century, which must be a record. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for agreeing to meet a delegation from Devon and Torbay councils, because the scheme is vital to regeneration for three constituencies. What further evidence should they bring to that meeting to press their case?
As I hope I have made clear, the process for the appraisal of projects is pretty rigorous, and will be based on the cost-benefit analysis and the external non-monetiseable effects of the scheme. If my hon. Friend looks on the Department for Transport’s website, she will find chapter and verse on how we do it. Of course I will always be happy to talk to hon. Members about their schemes, but I can assure her that the process for appraising schemes in the pre-qualification pool will be done rapidly and objectively, and the best schemes will move up into the development pool for consideration for funding next year.
Will the Secretary of State now publish the assessment to which he alluded earlier of the A453 in Nottinghamshire, which he suggested was on a lower value-for-money assessment? That is certainly not the feeling of Members on both sides of the Chamber. Although it might have the hallmarks of a country lane, it is a massive priority for businesses in the east midlands, and he is leaving them with the impression that he has no plans for jobs or growth.
I do not think that is the impression that businesses in Nottinghamshire will have been left with. I know the A453 very well, and I am well aware of the problems that occur in the area. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), who has responsibility for roads, has already made a commitment to the House that we will in due course publish the business cases for both successful and unsuccessful schemes, so that Members can understand exactly how we have arrived at our conclusions.
I want quickly to congratulate the Secretary of State on how much he has achieved for transport in these straitened economic times. In particular, I welcome his commitment to the Heysham port to M6 link road, which I assure him has the full support of Lancashire county council and Lancaster district chamber of commerce. Will he assure me that his Department will be as proactive as possible to ensure that we see a completion date for this scheme, which has been on the table for the past 30 years?
What view has my right hon. Friend’s Department formed of the long-term prospects of the south-east Manchester multi-modal strategy, the A6 to Manchester airport relief road? Will he set out what steps he will be taking to review the relative merits of that scheme?
My ministerial colleagues are telling me—there are a lot of schemes to file in our minds—that this was going to be a private finance initiative scheme. However, PFI funding will no longer be available in the way it was, so if the scheme is to go forward, it will need to be resubmitted for conventional funding.
Like Members on both sides of the House, I am delighted that the Secretary of State has found the money for the Mersey Gateway. However, the fact that it will be tolled—it has not been historically—will divert large amounts of traffic through inter alia my constituency. The level of traffic that will be diverted is sensitive to the toll set. Will he assure us that his Department will do what it can to ensure that the toll is not used to raise additional money over and above that needed to construct the bridge, and is not increased as part—
I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns. This issue must of course primarily be a matter for the promoter of the scheme, which is Halton borough council. However, I am not sure that the local authority is totally unconstrained in setting a charge for the bridge, which will have to be related to the costs of delivering the scheme, so I will check that and write to my hon. Friend.
It is disappointing that the two schemes affecting the port of Immingham will not proceed in the immediate future. Can the Secretary of State give me an assurance that if the south Humber gateway project, which was granted planning permission only two weeks ago, proceeds more quickly than anticipated, he will seriously consider bringing forward the A160 upgrade?
At least one of the schemes to which my hon. Friend refers is in the development pool. We will continue, as I hope he will, to work with his local authority to sharpen the bid and ensure that the scheme is viable for funding when we look at such matters in 2011.
One of the projects that is currently in the pre-qualification pool is the Camborne and Redruth transport package, which would unlock the potential for regeneration and create 6,000 new jobs. Can the Secretary of State give an assurance that those projects that have today been announced as being in the pre-qualification pool will not be disadvantaged by joining the development pool at a later date, should that happen?
Yes I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The intention is to carry out the pre-qualification assessment over the next three months, with a view to some schemes moving from the pre-qualification pool to the development pool in January 2011. That will give them plenty of time to make their case for funding before the end of 2011, when the decisions are taken.