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Transport Infrastructure

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 10 December 2015

8. How much the Government plan to spend on transport infrastructure between 2015 and 2020; and how much was spent on such infrastructure between 2010 and 2015. (902636)

The coalition Government spent £41 billion on transport infrastructure between 2010 and 2015. On an equivalent basis, this Government plan to spend £61 billion on transport infrastructure between 2015 and 2020—an increase of 50%. This includes £15 billion for the biggest road improvement programme seen in Britain since the 1970s, and the electrification of 850 miles of railway—the biggest rail modernisation since Victorian times.

My right hon. Friend will know the importance I attach to the north-west relief road—the final bit of the road around Shrewsbury, which has a cost-benefit ratio of 5:4. He says that the project is going to be the responsibility of the local enterprise partnership. How will his Government work with LEPs to ensure that they have adequate funding and logistical support to carry out and implement these vital schemes?

My hon. Friend is right, and he has been to see me to make representations, with a number of people from the council and from Shrewsbury itself. It is right that this is taken forward by the LEP. Funding for the major LEP schemes has been set aside and was agreed as part of the spending review. Details on how to bid to the fund will be announced shortly.

With no news on the privately financed electrification of the line between Selby and Hull, and with yesterday’s announcement on the TransPennine franchise failing to give additional services to Hull for city of culture 2017 and providing only refurbished, not new, trains, can the Secretary of State understand why people in Hull were rather taken aback by the comments of the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) on “Look North” when he said that investment in northern transport is about to overtake that of the south? Do not those words show that the Under-Secretary is away with the Christmas fairies?

I do not know whether I would want to go into Christmas fairies so far as the current Labour party is concerned, as Labour Members might be seeing fairies in many places. I believe that the Department for Transport has been helpful to Hull in its preparations for the city of culture, not least with the improvements at Hull station and the proposals I have worked on with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) to ensure that the footbridge project is brought forward much more quickly to provide access to the Hull dockside. I am sorry that the hon. Lady cannot welcome that.

Will the Secretary of State consider reviewing his spending priorities? Is it not true that billions of pounds would be available to spend on transport infrastructure across the whole country between 2015 and 2020 if the current plans for HS2 were replaced with a conventional high-speed line running at 155 mph? Money would be available to pay decent compensation, provide improved environmental protection and faster investment in HS3 and HS2 phase 2, which should be a much greater priority than cutting 10 minutes off the journey between Birmingham and London?

I have to say that I do not think I will ever convince my right hon. Friend on this particular subject—so I am not sure I am going to try. Let me simply say that the investment in HS2 is not just about speed—a point that I cannot get over enough—but about capacity and the huge increase in people travelling on our railways. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend says that we could just build another conventional line, but that would cost 90% of what HS2 is costing in any case, so there would be no significant savings. I make no apology for being part of a Government who are investing for the future of the nation.

The future infrastructure project on which the Government have to make a decision that is of most interest to most people is that of airport expansion. People of all positions on the issue are interested to know when a decision will be made. On 1 July 2015, the Prime Minister said in response to a question:

“What I can say to her is that we will all read this report and a decision will be made by the end of the year.”—[Official Report, 1 July 2015; Vol. 597, c. 1474.]

On 5 October this year, the Secretary of State said at the Conservative conference:

“The Davies commission has produced a powerful report, and we will respond by the end of the year.”—

and he repeated that in an interview on 30 October. Will the Secretary of State therefore confirm that a decision will be made on airport expansion by the end of the year, or will party politics and the London mayoral elections come before a decision for the nations of the UK?

I have read much speculation about what decisions we may be about to make. Some of that speculation may be true, but until we make a decision, I shall not be able to inform the House of it.

Given that answer and the potential for delay, and given that the Davies commission had accepted that links with regional airports are vital for the future—especially for airports such Inverness and Dundee—will the Secretary of State undertake, as a matter of urgency, to present proposals on public service obligations for such routes, and to amend the regional air development fund to keep regional air routes sustainable?

I know how important it is to retain links through the London airports. I should be more than happy to discuss the issue in detail with the hon. Gentleman, and with the Scottish Government.

Would the Secretary of State or the rail Minister be willing to discuss with me the issue of transport infrastructure investment in south London? Proposals from Transport for London and the Department for Transport, on which local authorities have not been consulted, would lead to a reduction in the number of fast services to Victoria, and I should like to discuss that with Ministers.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the rail Minister would be more than happy to meet the right hon. Gentleman. The simple fact is that, in London and, indeed, throughout the country, we are seeing an ever greater demand for transport, and we are doing all that we can to meet those requirements. As a result of huge investment, the Victoria line now offers some 37 trains an hour, and there have also been upgrades on the Northern line. However, the pressure for further upgrades is an important issue.