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Rolling Stock (North of England)

Volume 584: debated on Thursday 10 July 2014

The Department for Transport reached agreement with Northern Rail in April 2014 to introduce four-coach electric trains that will begin operating in passenger service between Liverpool and Manchester from December 2014.

TransPennine Express also received 10 new four-coach class 350 electric trains, which will now operate between Manchester and Scotland. Since May, TransPennine Express has used the displaced diesel trains to provide an additional service every hour across the Pennines and additional capacity across the network. In relation to the TransPennine Express diesel class 170 trains that Chiltern will lease from April 2015, the Department is continuing to explore options with industry partners and is in commercial negotiations. The Department will be outlining its proposed solution later in the year.

Perhaps the Minister missed the fact that I am a Hull MP, because he did not actually mention any of the services that go to Hull. Last week there was a lot of spin about HS3 for the north, which obviously will not happen until years after 2030, so let me press the Minister on the fact that we still do not have a resolution to the rolling stock being moved from TransPennine to Chiltern Railways. Again, is it not the case that, for the north, it is jam tomorrow, but today it continues to be jams for local people on the railways?

The hon. Lady is wrong: the Department has identified a potential solution. We hope to be able to make a formal announcement later this summer. The decision to move the nine TransPennine Express class 170s was made by their owner. To address that, the Department is in commercial negotiations to develop a solution that is likely to see the introduction of more electric trains into the north, in addition to the 14 class 319s we have already announced, to release even more diesel units.

The improved rolling stock that was introduced by TransPennine for Cleethorpes to Manchester services a few years ago increased patronage considerably. Will the Minister give an assurance that when the new franchise documents—the invitation to tender—are published later this year, he will specify that the highest quality of rolling stock be maintained on services out of Cleethorpes and that it will be at least the quality of the 185 units in use at present?

My hon. Friend is an absolute campaigner for his constituents, and he has spoken to me a number of times on this issue and on the consultation. I should say that the consultation is just that. We are viewing a number of proposals at the moment, including the remapping of certain services, but I am sure that he will wish to continue to make those points during the consultation period. When the consultation finishes, we will consider all the points made and look to specify the necessary rolling stock requirements in the invitation to tender to ensure that the best services are provided for people across the north.

When the Department agreed to move rolling stock from the north to Chiltern Railways, the Secretary of State said that he could not have “unreasonably” withheld his consent. As it is clear that no solution to the problem has yet been identified, under what circumstances would it have been reasonable for him to refuse to allow that move from north to south?

It is not often that I would dare to correct the hon. Lady, who chairs the Select Committee on Transport, but she clearly was not listening to my two previous answers. A solution has been identified. We are in commercial discussions and we will be making a formal announcement this summer.

Four trains an hour leave St Pancras destined for the north of England, with rolling stock through Kettering, but only one an hour stops at Kettering, so we have only an hourly service northbound, whereas we used to have a twice-hourly service northbound. Will the Minister speak with East Midlands Trains to give us our old service back?

I thank my hon. Friend for his campaign on behalf of his constituents. Not only will I speak to East Midlands Trains about the issue, to ensure that his point is heard, but I am sure that he will want to catch me later to stress the point further.

The Government’s consultation on rail services in the north proposes a number of route level changes to TransPennine Express, but is silent on Ministers’ plans for Northern Rail, even though it is clear that wide-ranging changes are envisaged. Will the Minister come clean with passengers, rule out a backroom deal and let people know what is planned for their area?

There is a live consultation on Northern and TransPennine at the moment, which invites views across the region on a number of proposals, including the remapping of some franchise services between the two franchises. It involves both Northern and TransPennine, and I should stress that it is a consultation, which does not finish until mid August. When it does so, we will consider all those responses. There is no question of any backroom deal.

Can the Minister assure us that in the consultation on the new rail franchises, he will take account of the strong campaign being run by the Scunthorpe Telegraph and the Grimsby Telegraph in respect of our desire and requirement to maintain our services through to Manchester? Can he assure us, too, that whatever changes come, we will not be condemned to the Pacer units that I have to use every week on the train back to Goole?

Let me give my hon. Friend two pieces of good news. First, I know he will have read the consultation document from cover to cover, so he will have noted paragraph 7.7, which states that the

“bidders will be required to include plans, either in their core proposition or as an option, which would enable the withdrawal of all Pacer units from Northern services.”

I obviously recognise the campaign of the two newspapers he mentioned, and I am aware of the campaign he has rightly put forward on behalf of his constituents. I would say to my hon. Friend, as I have said to those newspapers, which faithfully reported my words, that this is a consultation and no decision has yet been made.