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Rail Electrification

Volume 601: debated on Thursday 29 October 2015

Since 2010 my Department has overseen the successful delivery of 50 miles of electrified track. In the constituency of the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) construction is under way between Ealing Broadway and Acton mainline stations, to remove slow-moving freight trains off the line and enable high-frequency electric Crossrail trains to service her constituents from 2018. From Paddington and through her constituency to Bristol and on to Cardiff, Network Rail has installed around a quarter of the 14,000 piles needed to turn the centuries-old Great Western line into an electric railway fit for the 21st century.

Will the Secretary of State ensure that electrification of the Great Western main line goes ahead on time, along with other improvements on the route, to deliver quickly the benefits for passengers into Paddington? My constituents cannot wait until 2019 and the start of Crossrail for the extra services that are so badly needed.

I am sorry that the hon. Lady’s constituents cannot wait until 2019—they waited for 13 years between 1997 and 2010 with nothing happening.

Teesside has had a hammering in this place over the past weeks, but we are a resilient bunch and nothing demonstrates that better than the magnificent victory at Old Trafford last night. We are top of the league on the electrification taskforce list for the connection between Northallerton and Middlesbrough. Can the Secretary of State indicate when we might expect progress on that important economic development?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman because I, too, am a football supporter—I support Derby County and any team that plays Manchester United—and his team has done incredibly well. He makes a fair point, and Network Rail uses a huge amount of steel, which helps his constituency. I will look into his point and write to him once I get the results of Peter Hendy’s re-plan.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer visited north Wales in July and said that he will “look at” the case for electrification of the line from Crewe to north Wales. Will the Secretary of State define what “look at” means, and say whether it will mean look at and deliver, or just look at?

It means that I will take no lessons from someone who, between 1997 and 2010, supported a Labour Government who managed to achieve the great amount of electrification of 10 miles—13 years, 10 miles. We will certainly look at electrification as that is the way forward for the railways, and I will consider that along with other plans for control period 6.

As I witnessed again last Monday, passengers travelling between Bolton and Manchester are frequently squashed like sardines on that line. Will the Secretary of State update the House on how engineering works on the line are coming on, and particularly the reboring of the tunnel at Farnworth?

My hon. Friend is right about what we need to do. Farnworth tunnel has had problems but it has now been completed, and that will help to increase capacity on the line. The changes and increased capacity that my hon. Friend rightly wants for his area will take place, and I pay tribute to all those who have worked tirelessly on the Farnworth tunnel, which is now running on time.

I welcome the unpausing of work on electrifying the Midland mainline. As most of that work will slip into the next control period, will the Secretary of State ensure that the line through Langley Mill and Atherton is also electrified? That project has a robust business case and will improve the resilience of the whole line and services to my constituency.

As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, my hon. Friend heard evidence a few weeks ago from the chief executive of Network Rail. His point about looking at all the lines as a total is important, and I will bear his comments in mind.

I very much welcome the news that the electrification of the trans-Pennine route is now fully back on track. Will the Secretary of State say what new improved benefits the new scheme will bring to commuters in west Yorkshire?

We are looking at substantial improvements in linking up the main cities in the north—between Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. What we are planning will bring more seats and capacity. It is absolutely essential that that is got on with.

20. In response to an earlier question, the Transport Secretary rightly pointed out that other line improvements are required in addition to electrification on the midland main line. Will he therefore update the House on progress in finalising the funding for all those improvements, including those at Market Harborough, to which the Government are committed? (901883)

We have covered £38.5 billion of investment in Network Rail over this control period. We are looking at ways in which other funding can be made available.

It was reported this week that due to the delay to the Great Western electrification programme taxpayers could be paying £3 million a week for trains that cannot move anywhere, or that they might have to foot the bill for fitting diesel engines to electric trains. Will the Secretary of State tell us who is to blame for this fiasco? Is it Network Rail for the delay to the work, is it the Department for Transport for signing the contract in the first place, or is it simply a symptom of the privatised structure of our railway that causes the kind of fragmentation that makes disasters like this frankly inevitable?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his position. He talks about privatised railways leading to this kind of disaster. This is a great example of somebody who has not held ministerial office, or who has just been in opposition, being able to forget everything that happened in the past. I remember, however, what the Labour candidate for Mayor of London, the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), said:

“one reason we are able to invest record sums in our railway service is the revenues that the franchises bring in and the premiums that they pay”.—[Official Report, 1 July 2009; Vol. 495, c. 430.]

We are seeing record investment in our railway because of how we are running it. At the time it was fully nationalised we saw a declining railway, a useless railway, a railway that was not fit for purpose—something the Labour party wants to go back to.