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Rail North Electrification Taskforce

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 4 December 2014

A wide range of electrification schemes is being considered by the taskforce of northern MPs and council leaders set up to explore the priorities for future electrification in the north. The taskforce expects to provide me with an interim report in February 2015 setting out its recommended priorities for scheme development in future rail funding control periods from 2019.

The electrification of the Crewe-Chester line and beyond into north Wales has gained the support of local businesses, local councils, local MPs and even the Welsh Assembly, and the results of the report are eagerly awaited. How can members of the public also make sure that their views are heard?

I am interested in the points my hon. Friend has raised. That is one of the reasons we set up the taskforce and I think its membership is widely known. I understand that it will meet later today and I eagerly await the report in 2015.

Many Opposition Members are fond of the Secretary of State, but this morning he has been unusually full of bluster about the northern powerhouse and rail electrification. Will he not admit the truth that the botched privatisation that carved up the franchising between Railtrack and the operators was ruinous, and that nothing will happen in our rail system until we get rid of that botched privatisation?

I was informed that the hon. Gentleman sent out some interesting tweets when he was last on the east coast main line, saying it had been a disaster since it had been privatised, when actually it was being run by direct operators at the time. As far as blustering is concerned, I think the hon. Gentleman blusters too much. He is jealous of the success and work we are putting in to the northern powerhouse and to improving not only our railways but our roads right across the country.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman is misleading the House about my tweets!

I think the hon. Gentleman can raise his point of order, to which we look forward with eager anticipation, later on. We are saving him up—that is what we are doing.

May I thank the Secretary of State for his earlier reply regarding direct services from Cleethorpes through Barnetby and from Scunthorpe to Manchester? That is really important. We are not ungrateful, but may I now push him on the electrification of the south Humber line? We know it is a complex project because of the amount of trade used on the route, but could some research be done on it?

I am glad that I have pleased my hon. Friend on one particular subject, on which he and my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) led a successful campaign. On electrification, we are now starting work on what will be in the next control period and I will take what my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) has just said as part of those representations.

If Tees valley and its mighty industries are to play their full role in the much vaunted northern powerhouse, it is essential that the electrification of the east coast line from Northallerton to Middlesbrough and on to Tees port—the UK’s second largest exporting port—be prioritised. Will the Secretary of State ensure that that section of line is included in the forthcoming schedule?

I have set up a taskforce to give me a report, and I am not going to say what will be in the report before I have even received it. As I said earlier, the taskforce is looking at some 72 routes at the moment.

The hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position, “Give them a nudge.” I think he has just done that.