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Local Transport Projects: Funding

Volume 627: debated on Thursday 13 July 2017

Before I start, may I welcome the new members of the Labour Front-Bench team to their positions? I also congratulate the new Chair of the Select Committee on Transport, the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), on her success in the election yesterday.

Under the large local majors programme, the Department has already given two schemes the go-ahead. We are currently looking at the case to approve up to four more and are funding development of a further 13 schemes that will be considered in the near future. Last week, we announced the creation of a major road network that will enable an even greater number of local road improvement projects to come forward. The details of that scheme will be consulted on later this year.

The road to nowhere in Yate was built in the 1970s and was abandoned. It is now used as a film set. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the road should be reopened? What financial assistance is his Department making available for projects such as that, which would dramatically reduce congestion in Yate?

Having walked the road to nowhere with my hon. Friend, I rather agree that it would be better if it had genuine motorists on it, rather than ones in soap operas. I hope that he will continue to encourage his local enterprise partnership and others to bring forward proposals for that road. Through the growth fund, we provide support for schemes such as that. The scheme may also be eligible for consideration as part of the major road network, depending on the connectivity at either end, but I commend him for his work on the issue. I rather agree that it would be better if the road were open for motorists.

As you know, Mr Speaker, Dorset is a wonderful place to live, work and visit, but Dorset’s roads, including the A350, north-south, and the A31, east-west, do become congested, especially in the summer months. What assurances can the Secretary of State give me and my constituents that major infrastructure projects in Dorset are a priority for the Government?

There are two ways in which I hope we can deliver support for my hon. Friend and his constituents. For those parts of the strategic road network that run through Dorset, Highways England is currently reviewing needs and looking at what the next generation of projects should be. There is also the creation of the major road network and the opportunity to develop far more bypasses. I think that will play an important role in places such as Dorset, where many towns suffer intensive through traffic and are not suited to such traffic.

Tyne and Wear Metro customers are affected daily by failing trains; it has the lowest performance level of any equivalent system in the UK; that includes the oldest rolling stock on the London underground. That is largely due to the fact that the metro is well past the 35 years for which it was designed. Is the Secretary of State aware of the situation? When will he provide the funds to replace the fleet?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his re-election as Chair of the Backbench Business Committee. I am well aware of the issue that he has raised. I recognise the importance of the metro to Newcastle and the Newcastle area. I am pleased that, in the last few years, we have put several hundred million pounds of investment into the network. My Department is looking very carefully at what the best options are. I understand the need to make changes, so that the metro can carry on serving people in the way it has in the past.

Will the Secretary of State commit to supporting the Welsh Government’s plans by providing a comprehensive funding package for the South Wales Metro?

Of course, central Government are providing a substantial contribution to the South Wales Metro. I have also extended an offer to the Welsh Government to enable them to take over that infrastructure, so that they can run a truly integrated service on that route. I am waiting with interest to see what plans they bring forward to make that vision a reality.

It is 30 years since Crossrail and the Thameslink upgrade project were first proposed. Does my right hon. Friend welcome the fact that it is a Conservative Government who have seen those projects make such progress towards completion in a few months?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am very excited by Crossrail, not only because of what it will deliver for London but because it is the biggest engineering project of its kind in Europe. I hope that we will be able to build on that expertise, and that UK plc will take advantage of what has been done by winning contracts internationally. When it opens next year, Thameslink will make a real difference to passengers to the north and south. I am proud of what we are achieving.

I thank the Secretary of State for coming to my constituency during the general election campaign. What does he intend to do about the terrible transport infrastructure investment and the inequality that exists between London and the north-east, resulting in £1,943 per person being spent in London and just £220 per person being spent in the north-east? I do not begrudge London that investment, but people in North West Durham are as important.

I have never doubted that. Of course, the balance between regions will depend on what projects are happening at the time. The hon. lady will have seen in our manifesto the commitment to the northern powerhouse rail programme, which will mean a significant change in the balance. I am waiting for Transport for the North to come forward with its recommendations on the form that should take. There are other benefits for her constituency. It will see the arrival in the very near future of a new generation of express trains on the east coast main line, which will be vastly better than her constituents have at the moment.

The Gibb report put forward a solid business case for the electrification of the Uckfield line, which runs through my constituency of Wealden. Will the Secretary of State meet me and local campaigners to get this project on track?

I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend, and I absolutely recognise the issue. The other part of deliberations around the Uckfield line is the private-sector proposal, which I have said we will happily look at, to create BML2—the Brighton main line 2. We should look at all these things in the round and ask what is the best future for that route, but I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend.

Why does not the Secretary of State for Transport tell his friends that some of these so-called projects are pie in the sky from a Government who are already committed to spending more than £80 billion on High Speed 2, under which there are going to be two tracks through Derbyshire—not one, but two: one a slow track and one a fast track? Why does he not get real and understand that there should be a reassessment of HS2? He only has a tiny majority, and believe me, a lot of Members on both sides of this House are fed up with the idea of spending money in the far distant future on HS2 when there are all these projects on today’s Order Paper on which they want action.

I am very surprised that the hon. Gentleman is opposing a scheme that will deliver capacity improvements and journey improvements between the great cities of the north, and link Birmingham to Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds, and that will make a real difference economically to the areas he represents. It is a project that is overwhelmingly supported by those who represent those communities in the north.