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Rail Electrification

Volume 551: debated on Thursday 18 October 2012

The Government are committed to an extensive rolling programme of electrification; by the end of the decade, around three quarters of passenger miles travelled in England and Wales will be on electric trains. Electrification will deliver trains that are cleaner, quieter, faster and cheaper to operate, with more capacity for passenger and freight customers.

Electrification of the great western line through Swindon and beyond will allow increased train capacity. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the need for more seats to allow more passengers to use the service in comfort will be at the heart of the greater western franchise process when it is reopened?

Indeed it will. I know that my hon. Friend has campaigned for greater capacity on that line for some time. I believe that electrification will lead to an increase of 20% in seating capacity on the line by 2018.

I welcome the Secretary of State to his job. As he will know, I welcome the go-ahead for the tram train pilot project between Sheffield and Rotherham. The trams will not be delivered until 2015 and there will probably then be a couple years of evaluation. If the scheme is successful—I am sure that it will be—rolling it out will depend on having underused heavy rail lines that are electrified. Will he bear that in mind when considering future electrification?

I will certainly bear in mind the hon. Gentleman’s comments. He has always fought hard for an improved service for his constituents and in the Sheffield area. I will look closely at what he has said.

14. Does the new Secretary of State recognise the need for electrification in the Tees valley so that we can have a metro service to connect the large conurbation together? (123222)

I take that as a bid, and it is one that I will look at in more detail. I am sure that I will hear much more about it from my hon. Friend.

We in the south Wales valleys are delighted that those lines are to be electrified, but can the Secretary of State tell us when that work will start and how much faster journey times between Treherbert, Llwynypia and Cardiff will be? If he is unable to pronounce those place names or tell us today, will he please write to me?

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) for managing to get electrification for Wales into the original programme, and I am very glad that that is something that this Government will—

I know that the hon. Gentleman welcomed it. I am glad that this Government will give us something that he never managed to achieve when he was in government. I think that it will start in 2015.

18. In view of the need for strategic planning, will the Secretary of State bear in mind that everyone would like electrified railway lines and that provision should be made to give comfort to investors and for infrastructure developments? (123226)

As I said earlier, electrification brings many advantages to the rail network, so what my hon. Friend asks for will be delivered by electrification. The plans we have put forward are the most ambitious put forward by any Government.

South-west MPs met yesterday to discuss the pause in the greater western franchise. One of the concerns raised was the impact of the current ring-fenced electrification programme, which had been built into people’s bid plans. The issue was whether we would in fact see a worse service as a result of those electrification plans, as we have been unable to take the franchise bid forward and there are new timetables because of the works required for electrification.

As with any major infrastructure project, there will be delays while that is taken forward, but ultimately there will be a far better service.