8. What recent progress has been made on the tram-train project. (905610)
The tram-train pilot project, which introduces new services from Rotherham Parkgate to Sheffield city centre, is progressing. The seven new tram-train sets are being built, and modifications to the existing super-tram network and depot are well under way. Network Rail is developing its programme to modify the heavy rail network on which to run the tram-trains, including electrification from Meadowhall to Rotherham Parkgate and the construction of new platforms at Rotherham Central station. The service is due to start in 2016.
I thank the Minister for that reply because, as she is aware, that is precisely the timetable. The trams are supposed to start running early in 2016. As I understand it, Network Rail’s timetable is now slipping substantially, and there are concerns that it might slip by as much as a year. In response to those concerns, Baroness Kramer has simply promised extra scrutiny and that officials would impress the importance of the project on Network Rail. Will the Minister now get a grip of Network Rail so that it gets a grip of this project and gives an absolute assurance that the trams will start to run early in 2016, as planned?
The enthusiasm of the hon. Gentleman and the South Yorkshire passenger transport executive shows how vital that project is. He will know that it is an important pilot project. If this fantastic service works, it will liberate many transport systems in other cities. It will also future-proof the lines for the long-awaited electrification process, which we want to see on other parts of the railways. The Network Rail route director, my officials and I have made personal commitments to deliver this vital project.
Next week, the new Metrolink line to Manchester airport will open. At 14.5 km, it has been one of the biggest civil engineering projects in the country. Will the Minister join me in thanking the M-Pact Thales consortium, which has delivered the project a year ahead of schedule, as well as Transport for Greater Manchester and the good people of Wythenshawe, who have endured the disruption with good grace?
I certainly will. I also commend the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members who came to the fabulous presentation by the Greater Manchester transport team earlier this week, where we heard about all the exciting plans for the area. It requires a large network of private and public sector innovation and effort to deliver these vital services, which are so long overdue.