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Railway Electrification

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 7 November 2013

In the rail investment strategy the Government are investing in more than 800 miles of electrification up to 2019. This includes lines in the north-west, north trans-Pennine, midland main line, electric spine, Great Western main line and Welsh valley areas. That is a substantial advance in electrification of the railways in this country.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. A couple of weeks ago, I launched the business case for the electrification of the Harrogate to Knaresborough rail line, which would bring more frequent and quicker services for passengers, and a great return for taxpayers from public money. Will he meet me to discuss this opportunity?

I will be delighted to meet my hon. Friend, who wastes no opportunity to raise this case for electrification with me. He has been a doughty campaigner for it. We have received a copy of the business case for the electrification of the Leeds, Harrogate and York line. The case looks promising and I am more than happy to discuss it further with him.

Plans for electrification are very welcome, but when will rolling stock be available for the electrified lines in the north, now that that there has been such a delay in the procurement for the Thameslink project?

I hope that that delay, on which there was a Public Accounts Committee report recently, will not lead to long-term delay. I am confident that once we have done the electrification the rolling stock will be ready to fulfil the needs we all want it to fulfil.

The Secretary of State will be aware that people in Cumbria very much welcome the plans for electrification of the lakes line to Windermere and the benefits that will bring to the economy and the environment. Will he also consider the electrification of the Furness line from Lancaster to Barrow, which goes through my constituency? That would link the industrial centres of Barrow and the western Lake district to the main line.

Indeed, and when I was in my hon. Friend’s constituency in the summer I was made very much aware of the desire for that line to be electrified. One great thing that has happened in the railways is that the constant request of any Secretary of State now is for more services and better services. That just shows how important the railways are now to our national life, and I will look at the case he makes.

Will the Secretary of State tell me why under the current arrangements the electrification of the route to Hull will stop at Selby, which, as I am sure he knows, is several miles short of Hull? Will he do everything he can to support the Hull trains proposal to extend the electrification to Hull?

I could point out to the hon. Lady how much of the line was electrified by the previous Labour Government in 13 years: 10 miles, as opposed to the 880 miles that we are planning to electrify as part of our commitment to the railways. She is making yet another case for further electrification of an important line and I shall certainly look at the case again in detail.

The Secretary of State will know that the welcome electrification of the midland main line will miss out the two stations in my constituency at Langley Mill and Alfreton. Will he consider the plans to complete that little section so that the whole line is electrified?

I had a meeting on Monday morning with the people operating the midland main line franchise and that particular issue was pointed out to me. We plan to electrify the whole line from St Pancras up to Sheffield, but my hon. Friend is right that part of it, which goes through his constituency, is missed out. I have no doubt that we will want to look at that as we are doing the rest of the line.

Last November, I asked the Secretary of State whether one of the intentions behind the electrification of the midland main line was to speed up journey times, in which case the line would need the new inter-city express trains and not the transfer of old rolling stock from the east coast line, which would be slower and would increase journey times. The Secretary of State could not answer me then. Can he tell me now whether the electrified midland main line will get the new rolling stock needed to speed up journey times, which is what we both want to see?

I travelled down on the line—in the cab, as it happens—on Monday morning and I saw some of the work that is going on for the planned electrification. A number of bridges are being replaced, which is necessary. That work is well under way and has started well. I will consider the questions about new rolling stock in due course when I come to consider the remaining period of the franchise.