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Rail Investment

Volume 577: debated on Thursday 20 March 2014

5. What assessment he has made of Network Rail’s planned control period 5 investment programme. (903168)

Network Rail is about to embark on CP5, which runs from 2014 to 2019, during which it will spend £38.5 billion on the railways—a significant increase on the £32 billion spent in the previous five-year period.

May I begin by thanking my right hon. Friend for ruling out the introduction of car parking charges at stations in west Yorkshire and by congratulating him on the significant amount of electrification that is taking place on our railways, compared with the pitiful amount under the previous Government? Does he agree that if he wanted it to be really impressive, to put the icing on the cake, electrifying the Caldervale line through New Pudsey would make it even better?

I am very glad that car parking charges have been ruled out, despite some people’s claims that they would be introduced. It was partly my hon. Friend’s vigorous campaign that led to that decision. He is absolutely right about the huge amount of electrification taking place on our railways—over 800 miles, compared with the 9 miles electrified during Labour’s 13 years in government.

The planned investment is very welcome, but what will the Secretary of State do to ensure that the correct rolling stock is available when electrification is completed so that we do not have a repeat of the current fiasco with TransPennine Express?

I think that it is absolutely right that we get rolling stock. I am sure that the hon. Lady, and indeed the whole House, will join me in welcoming the announcement made by Hitachi overnight that it will base its world headquarters for rail development in this country. That is incredibly good news and I am sure it will be welcomed by all. The point she makes about rolling stock overall is important. It shows the kind of development that is needed in railway rolling stock orders.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the campaign in the Humber to bring electrification through to Hull. Does he have an update on that important project for our area?

I have met hon. Friends and other hon. Members from the Hull area to discuss the representations they have made. I am very pleased to be able to announce today that I can make available the £2.5 million to take this project up to GRIP 3—governance for railway investment projects. That notification will be going to Network Rail and I will write to colleagues today to tell them that I am making the money available.

Although we all welcome investment in Network Rail, does the Secretary of State think that it is acceptable that the procurement programme for traffic management is going forward before a full and independent review can establish whether £1 billion of savings is possible?

The right hon. Lady has written to me on this matter, and I have not only corresponded with the company concerned and other interested Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham), but visited the company. Anna Walker, who chairs the Office of Rail Regulation, has written me a letter showing how it will investigate the points that have been made by DeltaRail.

What proportion of the money that the Government are spending and plan to spend on the railways is being spent on schemes that were initiated or started under the previous Labour Government?

We welcome electrification of the railways, but not if there are no trains to run on the tracks. One of the achievements of this control period will be the electrification of the Liverpool to Manchester line, which should mean better services, but the Department’s incompetence on franchising has put that progress at risk, as some TransPennine Express trains will transfer to Chiltern Railways next year. What is the Secretary of State going to do about it?

I realise that the hon. Lady has to try to find some things to attack and criticise us on, but I would have thought she welcomed a very significant increase in the investment into the railways. There were 9 miles of electrification during the 13 years of the previous Government; there will be 880 miles of electrification under this Government. Of course it is absolutely right to get the rolling stock right. Part of the problem with rolling stock has been the dismal performance of the previous Government in ordering it.

If it was so dismal, I do not understand why Hitachi has moved here because of the intercity express programme, but we will move on from that, because it was a Labour decision that caused that announcement today. [Interruption.] It was an order made under a Labour Government, not a Conservative Government.

The point of railway investment is to make life better for passengers, not worse. The Secretary of State talks about the electrification of the midland main line in control period 5, but again there are no answers on which trains will run on those tracks. Handing down older trains from the east coast line will lead to slower journeys on midland line trains than with the current diesel trains. What reassurance can he give the House that his botching of the TransPennine Express and Northern Rail franchises will not happen again in his own backyard?

The simple fact is that rail usage in this country has been a tremendous success that should be celebrated across the House. There were 750 million passenger journeys when the railways were privatised; there are 1.5 billion rail journeys now. I am very pleased about that. We are investing huge amounts in the railways. Of course there will be some problems with rolling stock, but it is this Government who have confirmed the intercity express programme orders for the east coast line and the great western line, and this Government who are signing off the contracts.