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Rolling Stock (North of England)

Volume 580: debated on Thursday 8 May 2014

The Department has recently agreed terms with Northern Rail for the introduction of electric trains between Liverpool and Manchester. Northern Rail will be able to transfer additional diesel carriages on to trains operating on other busy routes in order to relieve the crowding further. TransPennine Express has seen capacity increase with the introduction of the new Class 350 trains.

The Secretary of State will be aware that the rolling stock on Tyne and Wear metro is undergoing refurbishment, but that is little consolation to the residents of Washington who do not even have a station. Nexus has recently outlined plans for three stations in Washington as part of an extension to the metro network, and the North East local enterprise partnership has agreed to undertake the business case. Will the Secretary of State commit his officials to working closely with both parties to ensure that the business case is as strong and compelling as it can be?

I can give the hon. Lady that assurance. The Newcastle metro has been running for some time and is now undergoing a desperately needed upgrade. There is no doubt in my mind that the original metro regenerated areas that had been in serious decline. We are always looking at ways in which we can best expand those services. I am more than happy for those conversations to take place.

The daily commute of many of my Saddleworth constituents is akin to that of sardines travelling in a can. On top of that, we now know that some of Northern Rail’s diesel stock may be transferred to TransPennine Express to supplement the gap left by the TPE stock transfer to the Chiltern Railways. What guarantee will the Secretary of State give my constituents that that transfer will not happen?

What we have set out to do is match, where we possibly can, the growing passenger capacity with the availability of the railway network. As I have pointed out, a huge amount of new rolling stock is coming on line in the next few years. I therefore hope that we will be able to relieve some of the initial problems that the hon. Lady has mentioned.

I hope the Secretary of State will agree that Northern Rail has some of the worst rolling stock in the country on its lines, and I hope that that is something he will address. I hope he will also agree that the Airedale and Wharfedale lines are some of the most congested on the railway network and that they need additional capacity. What is he doing to provide better and longer trains on those lines?

I think I have just been setting out in the answers we have given the huge amount of investment that we are making in the new rolling stock that are coming on to our railways. I hope my hon. Friend’s frustration will not continue in the longer term.

Given the loss of nine trains already to the south of England, what steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that more trains cannot be taken from TransPennine Express or Northern Rail during the direct award period before the franchise is re-let in 2016?

I understand very much the case that the hon. Lady makes for the services in Bolton, and I am keen to see those services improved and increased. As a result of the huge amount of money we are spending on investment in the railway sector, her constituents will get a far better railway in the future than they had under the previous Government.