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Rail Electrification

Volume 554: debated on Thursday 29 November 2012

This Government have funded Network Rail to electrify almost 850 route miles, compared with about 10 route miles delivered by the previous Government in 13 years. The programme is on schedule. Passengers between Manchester and Scotland will be the first to benefit from electric trains by the end of 2013 and passengers on other routes will benefit soon after.

I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. He recently wisely decided to review a further 80 miles of electrification west of Newbury down to Westbury, which would bring enormous timetable and speed benefits to my constituents, as well as to neighbouring constituencies. Can he confirm that freight will be included in that review and indicate when it will be complete?

Mr Speaker, as you can imagine I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for that kind and generous question. May I reassure her that we place great importance on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the rail network? I can confirm that freight is included in the review that I have asked for on the Newbury to Westbury line. I do not want to hang around on this matter, because it will get bogged down in bureaucracy. [Interruption.] I hope that officials and Network Rail will report to me by February 2013, despite the sedentary comments from the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle).

A few months ago, the Government made the welcome announcement of the intention to electrify the midland main line to Sheffield, which the Secretary of State knows very well, by 2019. There is now a concern that the timetable may be slipping, and that only part of the route may be done by 2019. May we have an unambiguous statement from the Minister that the intention still is to electrify the whole of the line to Sheffield by 2019?

May I try to reassure the hon. Gentleman and say that the intention certainly is to meet it by 2019? We have no information or knowledge to suggest that there is any problem. However, to provide further reassurance, if he were to make available to me any fears or evidence that suggests there might be slippage—even if it is erroneous information—I, as a matter of urgency, will look into it. I would not like a story to be established as fact that there is a delay, because we certainly do not believe that there is.