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Network Rail (Control Period 5 Investment)

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 4 December 2014

Between 2014 and 2019 Network Rail will spend over £38 billion on running and expanding the British rail network. The Office of Rail Regulation’s recent assessment of Network Rail’s performance against the control period 5 delivery targets is that the company has not made the progress expected in some areas. The ORR has asked Network Rail to provide plans to demonstrate how it will bring about improvements and will hold the company to account for its delivery, as will I.

I thank the Minister for that interesting reply. The current CP5 plan includes electrification of the Leeds-Manchester TransPennine services, which is a great benefit to many of my constituents, but how will we get the benefits of electrification to more people, to put right the historical lack of progress that saw just 9 miles electrified in 13 years under the previous Government?

My hon. Friend serves on the wider taskforce that I set up to look into electrification in the north. I believe the taskforce is meeting today and I await its report. It is looking at 72 routes, some of which are freight routes. My hon. Friend rightly points to the massive expansion in rail electrification that will take place over the CP 5 period, which is widely welcomed across the rail industry and across the House.

One North brings together local authorities right across the north to look at transport needs—road and rail. Does the current structure allow such integrated thinking to go ahead, whether in the current control period or the next, so that we can plan for people’s transport needs looking at road and rail together?

I completely agree with the hon. Lady about the prospects for looking across the piece at not only rail but roads, which is indeed one of the things that One North is looking at. I hope that we shall have its interim report by the end of March. It looks not only at what we have set out in relation to HS3, but at other interconnectivities between the northern powerhouse.

The next time my right hon. Friend is on the fast train to his Derbyshire constituency and sails through Kettering station without stopping, would he be kind enough to reflect on the fact that, with improved line speeds and electrification to the Midland main line, it might be possible to reinstate a half-hourly service northward from Kettering, which was lost under the previous Government?

I am very interested in the points my hon. Friend makes, one of which relates to the whole question of capacity on the railways. That is one of the principal reasons for developing HS2. He is right that ultimately that will allow more opportunities to provide more local services, as well as the services he wants for his constituents.

Listening to the Chancellor yesterday, you might have thought that he had announced major new investment for the railways, but as we all know, the devil is in the detail. He told the north that he would replace the ancient and unpopular Pacer carriages with modern trains, but the green book says that bidders would only be “encouraged” to buy new trains. Yet another study for the south-west was announced, shunting the issue further down the line. He also promised to put the “great” back into the Great Eastern main line, but not a penny of new investment was announced for East Anglia’s railways. Is it not the case that across the country this Government are taking passengers for a ride? [Laughter.]

It’s the way they tell ’em! That is from a party that over 13 years, as the Prime Minister reminded us, electrified only 13 miles of track—I think he inadvertently misled the House, because I understand that is was only 9 miles. We have put forward the most ambitious plans for the railways. The only people who seem not to want to praise that, or even acknowledge it, are those on the Opposition Front Bench.