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Great Western Line

Volume 599: debated on Wednesday 16 September 2015

6. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on the completion date for electrification of the Great Western line. (901176)

I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. He and I share a total commitment to the electrification of the Great Western line all the way through to Swansea. Both he and the Prime Minister have been clear about the priority we all place on this strategic project.

Earlier this week, the Secretary of State told the Welsh Affairs Committee about Sir Peter Hendy’s stakeholder consultation. Are all the stakeholders committed to the project and, more importantly, did he share the UK Government’s commitment to the project with Sir Peter?

What matters above all else is our commitment, from the Prime Minister downwards, to completing the project. Opposition Members have expressed a lot of concern about the progress of the project. If they do not believe it is happening, I would encourage the hon. Lady and her colleagues to walk the length of the route, because they will see work happening right now to deliver this really important project.

14. Will the Secretary of State give a cast-iron guarantee, here and now, that in his review Sir Peter Hendy, the newly appointed chief executive of Network Rail, will not look again at stopping the electrification of the line to Cardiff and having dual fuel from Cardiff to Swansea? (901185)

I am not sure the hon. Gentleman quite knows about these issues. We are totally committed—I cannot be clearer than that—to electrifying the Great Western line all the way through to Swansea, as part of a programme of infrastructure investment bigger than anything this country has seen since the days of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Over the summer, it was reported that electrification of the Great Western line was costing four times more per mile than the UK’s last major infrastructure project, the east coast main line, which was completed in 1991. [Interruption.] One reason for the escalating costs are the compensation payments to train operators, which did not arise in the case of the east coast main line because the service was in public ownership. With the cost to the public purse now reportedly £1 billion more than projected, does the Secretary of State believe that the schedule 4 payments are justified, and does he agree that the profit-for-dividend model must be taken out of rail services? [Interruption.]

Order. We must have a bit of quiet. I could hardly hear the hon. Gentleman’s mellifluous tones. Let us hear the Secretary of State.

In fairness, I did not hear all of the hon. Gentleman’s question, so I will write to him about the specific issues. He is right that electrification is a really expensive way of investing in our railways, but it is the right thing to do. We have asked Sir Peter Hendy to look at all the different projects that Network Rail is juggling and report back to us this autumn with an update, but nobody in this place or outside should be in any doubt about our commitment to delivering electrification all the way through to Swansea.