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New Rolling Stock

Volume 580: debated on Thursday 8 May 2014

In the coming years, passengers will see significant increases in the amount of rolling stock on the railways, thanks to the Government’s investment. More than 3,100 new carriages will be in service by the end of 2019, including new rolling stock serving the Thameslink commuter routes north and south of London, new Crossrail trains from Reading through London to Essex and Kent, and new intercity express programme trains serving the east coast, Wales and the south-west.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on the biggest investment in our railways since the Victorian era, but may I beg him to spend just a little of that money on some new rolling stock for the Derby to Crewe line? People are currently unable to get on to trains to travel to Uttoxeter race course before the race meetings start, and we are seeing crowds struggling to get on to trains after the meetings have finished. Just a little of that money would be welcome in Uttoxeter.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning a line that goes through my constituency. As one who has regularly caught the train from Crewe to Derby, I understand the point that he is making. It is, of course, up to East Midlands Trains to look at the way in which the line is serviced, but I hope that we shall see an upgrade in the not-too-distant future.

What plans has the Secretary of State to modernise rolling stock in the north-west, especially on the South Fylde line, in conjunction with station modernisation?

One question asked of me quite regularly is what has been the biggest change since I was first appointed to the Department for Transport 25 years ago, and I have to say to my hon. Friend that one of the biggest changes is the demand for more and more rail services. I am more than happy to meet him to discuss the particular services in his constituency and how we can best meet the increasing demand we are seeing right across the country for railway services.

Investment in rail is welcome, but what new steps will the Secretary of State take to ensure that when individual lines are electrified, appropriate rolling stock is available immediately?

The Chairman of the Select Committee on Transport makes an important point about the commitment the Government are making to electrification. I will not remind her of the figures on electrification over the 13 years that her party were in government—it was some 10 miles, I think. We are planning to do 880 miles in this programme of rail electrification and modernisation, and she is absolutely right to say that we have got to make sure we get the rolling stock in line and in order as well.

Does the Secretary of State agree that there is great potential for the rolling stock for High Speed 2 to be built by Hitachi in my constituency in the north-east of the England, creating hundreds of direct jobs and thousands in the supply chain, and is he aware that Hitachi built the original bullet train almost 50 years ago?

I am indeed aware of what Hitachi is doing in the north-east and I very much welcome the Hitachi foreign investment into the north-east and its decision to base its world headquarters here in London. It is a great sign of confidence in the way that the Government are attracting inward investment into this country. Of course the hon. Gentleman is right about the investment opportunities that HS2 offers, not just in terms of rolling stock but right across the whole railway piece. There will of course be a competition and I have no doubt that it will be matched by Bombardier and other companies.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that although deep cleaning and refurbishment of rolling stock is important, there is a pressing need for new rolling stock on the commuter line from Chelmsford to Liverpool Street, and can he tell the House whether having new rolling stock could be a condition of the long-term franchise from 2016?

I hear the representations my right hon. Friend makes to me now, and has made to me on many occasions privately, about the desire for new rolling stock on that line. It will be something I will want to consider when we look at the franchising agreements we will put forward.

The £5 billion project to electrify the Great Western main line has been hit by flooding, bats on bridges and lengthy road closures which have crippled businesses in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. What guarantees can the Secretary of State offer the House that the electrification work will be completed by 2017 when those new intercity express trains will be ready to run?

The points the hon. Lady makes about forward orders and the fact that that new rolling stock is due to come on board by 2017 with the electrification of that line are very important. I have every confidence that Network Rail will rise to the challenge to deliver what it has set out to deliver in the rail investment strategy. Quite often attacks are made on Network Rail, but I think we can all stand back and think of the remarkable way in which it managed to re-establish the line through Dawlish and the work it did working almost 24/7.

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply, but it was his Department’s mismanagement of the Thameslink rolling stock contract that meant it took two full years to close the deal with Siemens. That project will finish three years late in 2018 and our colleagues on the Public Accounts Committee said last October:

“We are sceptical that the programme will be delivered by 2018 given the delays in awarding the contract for new trains”.

On Thameslink we could have new track but no trains, and on the Great Western line we could have new trains but no track to run them on. Does the Secretary of State agree with me that this is no way to run a railway?

I simply say to the hon. Lady that this Government have announced the biggest investment programme in the railway industry that we have seen in this country and I am very proud of that. Of course there will always be problems. I think the Thameslink programme was actually Thameslink 2000 so it has overrun—that is certainly true—but at the end of the day we are going to get a far, far better commuter service for all the people in the areas served by that line.

Successive Governments have short-changed East Anglia. As somebody who uses the rail service from Colchester to London Liverpool Street, I ask the Secretary of State, on behalf of my commuters, to include Greater Anglia in his roll-call of those companies that will get new rolling stock.

I hear the hon. Gentleman’s representations. The simple fact is that we are seeing massive investment in rolling stock, and there are demands for even greater such investment, but that has to be balanced with the investment that we are seeing on the tracks. As I have said, we are embarking on a new round of spending on the railways, with some £38.5 billion by Network Rail plus the investment in rolling stock as well.