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Midland Main Line (Electrification)

Volume 614: debated on Thursday 15 September 2016

Following the un-pausing of electrification, Network Rail has re-mobilised its team and is working towards a final design for the enhancement programme, as set out in the Hendy review last year. Work to increase capacity on the route has already started.

The east midlands has had the lowest level of rail spending per head in every one of the past six years. We have discovered that the pausing and un-pausing of the electrification of the midland main line wasted almost £40 million and cost countless jobs in the supply chain, and now there are rumours that it could be cancelled or deferred again. Will the Minister take this opportunity to confirm that the line will be electrified all the way to Nottingham and Sheffield by 2023, and will he commit to real action to ensure that there are no further delays or broken promises?

I congratulate the hon. Lady on assiduously carrying out her former brief—who knows when she might return to the Front Bench to continue in that role? She makes an important point about the importance of the line to the east midlands. In my view, the supply chain in the east midlands does not just depend on this one project; the investment in Bombardier’s 660 trains for East Anglia is just one way of safeguarding that particular supply chain. On her wider point about the work on that line, it is worth bearing it in mind that we have already completed 10 km of new line in that stretch; nearly 9 km of existing line has been improved; over 3,000 new piles have been put into place; and there is 10 km of new earthworks, strengthening of key bridges, and new viaducts, particularly at Harpers Brook. Work on this line is ongoing and we are looking to improve capacity through the franchising arrangements.

I am delighted to hear that the northern powerhouse is alive and well. Does the Minister agree that if it is to have real effect, it is important that investment is made in connectivity not just between the cities of the north, but between the towns? I thank Ministers for the initial investment in the Middlewich bypass, but will they also look at the business case for the reopening of the Middlewich railway station?

As someone born and bred in a town very close to Middlewich, I am well aware in my 40 years of the importance of the town’s connectivity at the heart of Cheshire. I know that there are good plans for Middlewich’s new station and look forward to working with my hon. Friend on progressing the business case.

Before the pause, electrification was due to be completed by 2020, which is also the date when all trains have to comply with new disability legislation. What will the Government do between 2020 and 2023, when the old HST trains on the line, with their slam doors, will not comply with disability legislation? Will they abandon the legislation or put in temporary rolling stock?

We take accessibility issues on our railways extremely seriously. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out the commitments we have made. We are currently examining how best to increase capacity on this line, particularly at peak hours, when there is a risk of standing on some stretches. We are looking carefully at how we can deliver on that.

Will the Minister ensure that the branch line that runs through Langley Mill and Alfreton stations in my constituency is added to the plans to re-energise electrification, having been unaccountably missed out of the original plans?

I am not familiar with that branch line at this stage but I shall certainly look into the matter, discuss it with my officials and write to my hon. Friend.

With the faster line speeds that electrification will bring, will the Minister look to reinstate the half-hourly service northwards from Kettering, which was cut to an hourly service under the last Labour Government?

A number of timetabling and scheduling opportunities always come about through any reprofiling of a line and indeed any change in the rolling stock on the line. We will of course feed that into all the consultations on how best to make use of the reprofiling of that line.