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Railway Lines

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 22 January 2015

We are delivering £38 billion of investment on our existing rail network. In addition, HS2 will deliver a £42.6 billion programme to build a new railway, linking London to our other great cities. It will reach Birmingham by 2026 and Manchester and Leeds by 2033.

Transport links are crucial to the economy of the black country. Currently, commuters between Wolverhampton and Walsall have to go through a connection at Birmingham New Street, which takes double the time it would take to drive. Will the Minister, with local support, consider a reintroduction of the line between Walsall and Wolverhampton?

We are certainly happy to meet my hon. Friend. That line would not only deliver a better journey time between Wolverhampton and Walsall, but would relieve some of the pressure on Birmingham New Street.

David Higgins has described the transport links between Sheffield and Manchester as a matter of national concern. Under his proposals for an HS3 line, it merely goes from Manchester to Leeds, and to get from Manchester centre to Sheffield centre, one will have to go on HS3 to north of Wakefield, down on HS2 to Meadowhall, and then back to Sheffield centre. It will take longer than the current trundle through Hope valley. If improving connectivity is an important issue for the Government, should not this whole project get a complete rethink?

Improving connectivity is a very important issue for this Government. That is why we have not only a long-term economic plan but a long-term infrastructure plan. I have some very good news for the Labour party. Its plans, both economic and on infrastructure, seem to have been drawn up on the back of a fag packet; the good news is that there will be more room on the back from now on.

Though my constituents would be happy to see new rail lines built, they would prefer better services on the existing ones. East Midlands Trains, which operates the Grimsby-Lincoln-Newark service, most of which is provided by a single-car unit, has been telling me for four and a half years that it will improve that by making it two cars. When will the Minister act to do something about that?

It is always important to address such issues when franchises come up. One of the problems we are facing in announcing all these programmes up and down the country is that everybody is now wanting to jump on the bandwagon to catch up and see the investment coming to their area after a 13-year period of drought in real investment in infrastructure.