I beg to move,
That this House has considered transport in the North.
It is very nice to see a fellow Yorkshire MP in the Chair for this debate, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting time to debate this important issue. I thank the many hon. Members who sponsored the application, in particular my co-sponsors, the hon. Members for Shipley (Philip Davies) and for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy).
Over the past four months, the Transport Secretary has made a number of significant announcements on transport in northern England. On 20 July, he released a written ministerial statement cancelling a range of rail electrification projects, including Oxenholme to Windermere, and the whole line north of Kettering to Sheffield and Nottingham. The privately financed plans to electrify the Hull to Selby line had already been scrapped in November 2016, despite Transport for the North describing the scheme as:
“intrinsic to the story of transformation and provide necessary conditions to support the radical step-change required to deliver the Northern Powerhouse and strategic transport improvements to underpin this.”
The Department for Transport claims that bimodal diesel electric trains will realise
“the same significant improvements to journeys”
as electrification. On 21 July, the Transport Secretary, speaking to the press, cast doubt on the electrification of the trans-Pennine route and again talked about bimodal trains. Finally, on 22 August, he wrote in The Yorkshire Post boasting that there was to be a record £13 billion of investment in northern transport over the next Parliament, but that to secure further gains it was up to northern leaders, backed by Transport for the North, to realise the gains themselves.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate, along with other hon. Members. She describes recent Government announcements. Do they not make our constituents ever more conscious of the significant disparity between investment in transport in the North, and in London and the south-east? Does she agree that if we really are to have the kind of transport infrastructure we require for our future economic development, we need both the money and the powers to take decisions for ourselves?
As ever, my right hon. Friend puts his finger right on it: we need the money and the powers.
Alongside many hon. Members on both sides of the House, I sought this debate to have the opportunity to hold the Secretary of State to account for the announcements he made over the summer. It is good to see a Transport Minister on the Treasury Bench, but I am disappointed that, on this very important issue for the country, the Secretary of State is not here to listen to and respond to the debate when it is his actions over the summer and in previous months that have prompted the debate.
I want to make the case for a much bolder and more ambitious transport strategy for northern England. Despite what has been claimed, Britain is becoming more, not less, regionally divided. The inequality between our regions’ economies is the largest of any country in Europe. The productivity gap between north and south is also widening.
Does the hon. Lady accept that the regional disparity in funding, in particular on transport, has been the same for decades and that this is not a party political issue? We should be working together, cross-party, to make sure that future investment is more fairly distributed throughout the UK.
I do not want this issue to be party political; I want it to be cross-party. This is in the interests of Britain, so we in Parliament should work together.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I will, but one last time. I am conscious that there is not much time.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and I pay tribute to her for securing the debate. Does she agree that for far too long, improving equality between the north and the south in terms of transport infrastructure has meant improving links between the north and the south, rather than the links within regions, which is what will really boost our regional economy?
My hon. Friend makes that point very well and I absolutely agree with it.
I want to pursue the issue of regional inequalities. One core goal of public spending should be to tackle the deep-rooted inequalities between our regions, but all too often our transport and infrastructure spending has reflected those inequalities, or, even worse, compounded them. The gap in transport investment between the north and the capital is stark and widening. Nowhere is this divide more apparent than in Yorkshire and the Humber. We are to get just £190 a head in future transport investment over the next few years, the lowest of any UK region. London will get £1,943 a head—10 times as much. Transport for the North, with new statutory powers, is to get £60 million to develop transport plans for the whole of the north of England. That sounds impressive until we note that as long ago as 2008 Transport for London was spending £50 million just on advertising.
I welcome the £13 billion available for northern transport over the next five years, which I am sure the Minister will talk about, but I want to put that in the context of the London Crossrail projects. Crossrail 1, a single project in London, cost more, at £14.8 billion, than the north will get in this entire Parliament. The new Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road cost £1 billion. Crossrail 2, with an initial budget of £31.2 billion, could yet dwarf it even further. Crossrail 2 was given backing from the Secretary of State this summer, at the same time as he was cancelling investment in the north. In backing Crossrail 2, I do not recall the Transport Secretary saying that London had to have bimodal trains—it is getting electric trains.
The practical consequences of this divide are clear for all to see. It takes longer to travel from Liverpool to Hull than it does from London to Paris, and that is without the frequent delays. As IPPR North has highlighted, if the north had received the same transport investment as London over the past decade, we would have received an additional £59 billion. We cannot afford to ignore three regions with a population almost twice that of London and an economy larger than the three devolved nations put together.
There are immense economic gains to be realised if we plug the gap in transport investment. As the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review highlighted, a proper investment plan for the north, including major transport investment, would create an additional 850,000 jobs and add £97 billion to the economy by 2050. I admit that priorities need to be reordered, but it does not have to be an either/or choice between London and the south-east, and the rest. The underlying problem is that Britain spends well below the international OECD average on infrastructure. All political parties must acknowledge that this is a national concern that requires urgent attention.
The previous Chancellor recognised the potential of the northern powerhouse—indeed he coined the phrase—and set out some ambitious promises for the region. In the short to medium term, we were promised dramatic improvements in our existing railways and stations. In the longer term, he expressed support for the £25 billion to £30 billion Crossrail for the north project, promising to halve journey times between Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield to 30 minutes. We were told that our strategic road network would get unprecedented levels of new investment, spearheaded through a new organisation, Highways England, including promised investment in 43 road improvements across northern England, among them the A63 at Castle Street, in Hull, on which work was scheduled to begin by 2018. Finally, he promised new powers, devolved to northern England, to help realise all these gains. Transport for the North, created in 2015, was eventually to become a statutory subnational transport body and assume similar powers to those of Transport for London. It was to work alongside stronger local councils, a network of local enterprise partnerships and powerful elected Mayors.
Sadly, the reality has not lived up to these promises, so I ask the Transport Minister to make the following five commitments. First, the Government should spell out exactly how they expect bimodal, diesel-electric trains to realise the same benefits as electrified ones. A short written ministerial statement will not cut it. All the evidence suggests that they are the inferior option. They will be the first bimodal trains built in Britain since the 1960s. In Britain, diesel cars are being phased out at a time when diesel trains seem to be being phased back in. All those European countries that still have non-electric lines are all pursuing electrification. There is strong evidence that in diesel mode bimodal intercity express trains will be slower than the ones they replace. Great Western Railway has admitted as much in the case of the intercity trains on its line. No rail system that is not electrified can be described as “high speed”, which is ironic given that previous Whitehall statements have referred to the north as getting “High Speed 3”.
Network Rail promised electrification, saying that it would deliver shorter journey times, 20% to 30% lower CO2 emissions and 33% lower maintenance costs, but all these gains might now never be realised. Journey times from Manchester to Liverpool look set to be 30 minutes longer than promised and journeys from Leeds to Newcastle 20 minutes longer. Where does this leave plans for future rail investment, especially Crossrail for the north? Northern leaders and Transport for the North had always been clear that short to medium-term rail improvements ran hand in hand with longer-term plans. In developing Crossrail for the north, Transport for the North is still working from the baseline assumption that these rail upgrades will deliver the journey time improvements promised.
If the Transport Secretary is so confident in his approach, he should publish an independent expert assessment of exactly what kinds of travel times, CO2 emissions, upfront costs and maintenance costs we can expect from the bimodal trains that he is so keen on. This assessment should state whether they will meet Transport for the North’s baseline assumptions and assess their impact on realising longer-term investments, such as Crossrail for the north. All those years he was boasting about electrification, he must have known that bimodal technology existed. Instead, bimodal technology is one of the excuses, alongside the discovery of Victorian rail tunnels in the north, for dropping investment plans.
Secondly, the Minister must urgently address the uncertainty caused by the Transport Secretary’s recent announcements and recommit to the investment that the previous Chancellor promised. He must commit to electrification of the trans-Pennine line, the midlands main line, the Hull to Selby line and those parts of the north-west triangle still due for completion, and in order to realise key economic benefits for our region, he must give Crossrail for the north priority over Crossrail 2 for London.
Thirdly, the Government should provide Transport for the North with the powers it was promised, along the same lines as those in London. We now know that, in the statutory instrument to be laid shortly in Parliament, Transport for the North will not have nearly the same powers as Transport for London. In the north, we need to be able to finance infrastructure projects and drive forward private investment, but rather than embracing these opportunities, the Government have given us the worst of all worlds: neither the money to fund our transport projects and lever in private investment, nor the power to raise funds and promote the north ourselves.
Fourthly, we need the road investment promised. In March 2017, the National Audit Office strongly criticised Highways England and cast doubt on whether existing commitments would be met. It has already pushed back the start dates of 16 road investment schemes and paused six others. The A63 improvement in Hull has since been delayed to at least 2020. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) has had to fight hard just to get a pedestrian footbridge built over the A63—for safety reasons—before the main work starts in 2020.
I must mention bus services. Northern bus services have been hit hard: between 2010-11 and 2016-17, bus budgets were cut by 22% in the north-east, by 23% in the north-west and by 37% in Yorkshire and the Humber; and seven in 10 councils have cut bus services since 2010. The Government must reaffirm the commitments they had made, commit to funding the road network properly and to delivering those and future improvements to a proper timescale.
Finally, and most fundamentally, we need a long-term, cross-party commitment to addressing Britain’s regional inequalities and plugging the gap in investment between London and the rest. This needs to be a long-term commitment from both sides of the House. Future Budgets could, and should, be judged by how they reduce these inequalities.
In conclusion, the north’s problems are Britain’s problems. If we are to stand any chance of solving the deep-rooted challenges our country faces—solving our productivity crisis, addressing inequality, increasing our exports post-Brexit, creating stronger UK GDP growth overall—the north must fire on all cylinders. This means rebalancing the economy. Indeed, many of the challenges in our capital—skyrocketing rents and house prices, the chronic congestion that is economically inefficient and bad for people’s health and quality of life—would be much easier to solve if we rebalanced our economy.
I do not wish to deny London the transport investment it requires as the capital city, but the logic of rebalancing the economy was as much about taking pressure off London and the south-east by investing in regenerating the north as it was about keeping up with the incessant demand for massive schemes in and around London. In the digital age, many industries no longer need to cluster in the south-east. The Government have accepted the arguments for rebalancing the economy; now their actions need to follow their words. It is in the national interest that the north—our taxpayers, our fare payers, our businesses—gets its fair share of investment.
Order. A lot of colleagues want to speak in this debate, so I am imposing an immediate five-minute time limit.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on securing this debate on an incredibly important issue, not just for our region and the whole of the north but for the whole country.
It is easy to look at London and the south-east, its economic success and its levels of infrastructure investment, and simply criticise, but that would be wrong. London and the south have been hugely successful. We should acknowledge and celebrate that success as a good thing and recognise the contribution the region makes to the national economy. What we need to do is replicate that success in the north. It is for us to provide the arguments, the evidence and the reasoning for increased investment in the north and for where that investment should go. It is for us to help to create the successful economic environment in which our region will drive economic success and benefit our constituents and businesses. It is for us to ensure that we do not also miss out on opportunities. There was the chance of a Cumbrian devolution deal. Unfortunately, it failed to materialise, but it would have brought additional investment to my county.
However, we must also recognise the fundamental problem that, for many years and under successive Governments of all colours, our country has become dominated by one city, and, as a consequence, has in many respects become unbalanced economically and socially. A better balance is in the interests of the whole country, not just the south and not just the north. We need to see real, strong economic growth in the northern cities, both large and small, and also in the counties. It is not just about Manchester and Leeds; it is also about towns such as Carlisle, and counties such as Northumberland, Lancashire and Cumbria.
I believe that there are a number of key ways of helping to achieve that. We have seen the introduction of metro Mayors and the devolution of some powers, but that needs to go further. The extension of Mayors throughout the region will provide powerful voices for different parts of our region, and collectively they can speak for the north. We must also bear in mind the importance of skills. We have some magnificent universities in the north, and apprenticeship schemes are now being developed, but they need to be expanded and supported. Infrastructure investment is also vital: we need investment in roads, rail and air, and we should not forget broadband, which is equally important in a modern economy. Political will is critical, at the local as well as the national level.
All credit should be given to the Government for the fact that, to a large extent, a start has been made. Through the concept of the northern powerhouse, the importance of the north has been recognised. I am delighted to say that that includes what I consider to be the “true north”, given the first visit to Carlisle by the northern powerhouse Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry). It has also been recognised that infrastructure is the key. The creation of Transport for the North is significant. Its powers are slightly weaker than those of Transport for London, but if we get behind it, we shall have an opportunity to replicate the success of TfL.
We must not underestimate what is already being done. A total of £13 billion is being invested in transport infrastructure across the north, and an additional £400 million was recently allocated to improving connections in the region. The importance of east-west connectivity has been recognised, and the ambition for Northern Powerhouse Rail is that it will help to transform connectivity within the northern rail network. We must be patient, however. Crossrail did not happen overnight. We must be sure to put the building blocks in place, and accept that it will take time for improvements to follow.
Carlisle now has an enterprise zone which encourages business investment, and is connected to the road system. We have seen rail investment: £14 million for a new station roof, and £2 million for new platforms. A new rail franchise is creating investment in trains and modern carriages, and £11 million has been invested in connections to Dublin and Southend for the local airport. There are to be improvements to the A66 and the A69. Broadband is being extended, and, most important of all is the recent application to complete the ring-road around Carlisle, which would unlock housing and economic potential for the city.
All of us, in all parties, must recognise that decisions such as these can be long term, and can transcend our individual careers and the duration of individual parties in government. They are also vital to the long-term success of the north, and it is important for us to get behind that.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for securing the debate through the Backbench Business Committee. She made a very good presentation. I must also declare an interest, as chair of the all-party parliamentary rail in the north group.
The north-east has a very well-established urban transport system, one of the largest in the United Kingdom, in the Tyne and Wear metro, but it is nearly 40 years old, and much of the rolling stock is up to 37 years old. The trains are increasingly failing, suffering mechanical and electronic faults that cause misery for commuters and the travelling public in general. The rolling stock is well past its best, and requires urgent replacement. The latest estimates suggest that if a replacement programme has not been introduced by 2020, a system that is already literally grinding to a halt could actually collapse.
Along with my colleagues in the Tyne and Wear area, I wrote to the Secretary of State calling for a sensible solution to the problem of funding a replacement. We called on the Government to invest directly in the scheme, as opposed to other funding initiatives such as the private finance initiative. We wrote to the Secretary of State on 17 July 2017 and again on 12 September, and I raised the fact that we had received no answer during Transport questions on 19 October. We have still not received a reply. I fear that that is a symptom of the Government’s attitude to investment in the north-east, and to its people.
The replacement of the rolling stock could provide another boost for the economy of the north-east. It could be built in Newton Aycliffe, which would create many more jobs in the area.
I would welcome more jobs for the north-east, which was the industrial home of the railways in ancient times.
At present, the people of Tyne and Wear and their parliamentary representatives are being treated with complete contempt by the Government, who have failed to answer a letter from 10 Members of Parliament after more than 120 days. [Interruption.] Conservative Members would not accept that. May I ask you, Madam Deputy Speaker, whether it is normal parliamentary procedure for a letter to a Secretary of State, signed by 10 MPs, to be completely ignored for more than 120 days? I am still waiting.
The latest figures from the Treasury show that investment in infrastructure in the north-east is the second lowest in the UK, the lowest being in Northern Ireland. As we know, Northern Ireland has a financial benefit with which it can do something that will be determined for and by itself. Between 2011 and 2016, investment in the north-east was very low by comparison with the national average, and very low indeed by comparison with investment in London and the south-east. London enjoyed £30 billion of investment, and London and the south-east benefited from nearly 50% of all infrastructure investment.
In the north-east, our commuters regularly endure journeys of less than 15 miles that take more than an hour. The recently completed road-widening scheme on the A1 around the Metro Centre in my constituency has done little to ease that. Another scheme to widen the stretch of A1 alongside the neighbouring constituency has already been delayed until late 2020 in favour of investment elsewhere. Given such a disparity in spending between mine and other regions, my question must be this: why can we not have some investment for the north? “Fair funding” for us would not be fair, because it would not come to terms with that historical lag—the historical disparity that has left us in the doldrums.
The road network in the north-east, and the network that links it with other northern English regions and with Scotland, is beyond a joke. As has already been mentioned, the A1, the A19, the A66 and the A69 all suffer congestion and low travel speeds. The A1 around my constituency and to the west of Newcastle is one of the most heavily congested roads in the country, and the A1M which runs south from Gateshead to Scotch Corner—a distance of less than 40 miles—is motorway in name only. It often takes more than an hour to travel 40 miles on something that is designated a motorway. It is all too often dangerous, as is the A1 North link between Tyneside and Scotland.
Our internal regional railways are antiquated, uncomfortable and painfully slow. The region that gave this nation its railways is being left behind: that is beyond dispute. The right hon. Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) stood at the Dispatch Box and told us that by 2035, HS2 would cut journey times from London to Newcastle via Leeds by 20 minutes. Twenty years ago we could travel by train from Newcastle to London in two hours and 38 minutes, and in 20 years’ time, with HS2, the journey will be 20 minutes faster. So 40 years will have elapsed, we will have spent £56 billion, and we will have saved 20 minutes on the journey time from Newcastle to London. This will increase capacity, but it will do nothing for the economy of the north-east until we get the north-east’s transport infrastructure improved dramatically. We are being ignored.
The average commute into London begins 40 miles outside of the city. If we could make that the case for Manchester, we could create an urban network with a population larger than that of New York, and with a GDP the size of Sweden. That is the scale of the prize for getting northern transport right.
Tonight I would like to make three quick points: first, I want to celebrate the powerhouse that the north already is; secondly, I want to talk about the role that transport will play in shaping the north’s future; and lastly, I want to suggest a few key projects that will ensure that the future is bright.
When I hear the phrase “northern powerhouse”, I must admit that my heart sometimes sinks, because I know that too often I am about to hear a story of the past—the north as the land of the spinning jenny—or I am to be told about a far too distant future of hyperloops across the Yorkshire dales. Instead of talking about the past or the far future, let us not forget today that Britain’s 16 million northerners are already the nation’s economic engine. Last year, it was not London or the south-east that saw the highest growth; it was the north-west. Thanks to Nissan’s Sunderland car plant, Britain is, for the first time since England won the World cup, producing more cars than the French. Off Yorkshire’s east coast, Hull-made turbines are creating the world’s largest offshore wind farm. In science, the north’s 29 universities—including world-class institutions like Durham, York and Newcastle —are at the forefront of our cutting-edge research. And, in Manchester United, the north is home to the most successful sporting franchise anywhere in the world.
But in the area of transport, we are still selling the north’s potential short. The cities and towns of the north are individually strong, but collectively are not strong enough. The only way to get the north to punch beyond the collective sum of its parts is to connect those parts. That is why better transport is key to unlocking the north’s true potential.
Today, converted buses known as Pacer trains, a technology phased out more than 12 years ago by Iran’s national railway, are still in use across the north. Today, it is quicker to travel 283 miles from London to Paris than to travel less than half that distance between Hull and Liverpool. And today, too often bright, young entrepreneurial minds forged in northern schools and universities find it easier to come 200 miles to London to find a job than to look in a northern city just 40 miles away.
But it does not have to be like this. After all, the distance between Manchester and Leeds is shorter than the length of the London underground’s central line. The Government, to their credit, recognise the need for investment—and in my constituency upgrades to the A1 and A66 are welcome—but there is much more to do.
The northern powerhouse is a wonderful phrase, but the people of northern England deserve more than a slogan; they need action. How do we make the aspiration a reality? There is no doubt that there has been a substantial funding gap between London transport and northern transport under successive Governments.
I asked this question of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), but does my hon. Friend agree with me that this lack of investment has been happening for generations, and that it is not a party political issue? We should be working cross-party to deliver the solutions we all know we need.
My hon. Friend has done excellent work analysing these numbers, and I completely agree with his point that it is multigenerational. The point is that, from now on, that gap needs to start closing.
Secondly, London has Crossrail, the midlands is getting HS2, and now we in the north need the Government to back Northern Powerhouse Rail. The Government’s £300 million down-payment is certainly welcome, but we will need a lot more to show the people of the north that the Government mean business.
Thirdly, in my own area, the new Tees Valley Mayor has campaigned to upgrade Darlington station, to vastly improve its capacity and connectivity. It is an excellent proposal and the Government should get behind it.
Fourthly, from Teesside to Merseyside, and from Tyneside to the Humber, one of the north’s many strengths are its great ports. As I set out last year, after we leave the EU we should create a new generation of US-style free ports to turbocharge manufacturing, trade and employment in our great northern port cities.
Finally, we must make sure that the rural north is not left behind. Advances like autonomous vehicles will have their biggest impact in sparsely populated rural areas like mine—for example, by allowing elderly constituents to access distant health services more easily, or stimulating our local economies by allowing people to head to the pub without worrying about who will drive home.
It might seem strange to hear all this from a boy born in Southampton, but I am deeply proud to now call the north my home. So as long as I have a voice in this House, I will speak up loudly and forcefully for my home’s bright future, and for an economy that, with the right investment, can be the powerhouse not just of Britain but of the world.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) and the hon. Members for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) and for Shipley (Philip Davies) for securing this debate. It is timely because there is a growing recognition that insufficient investment is going into transport in the north.
I do not see tonight’s debate as being about left against right, nor do I see it simply as being about north versus south. This debate should be about how we ensure that the north gets a fair deal from national Government, and I want to work with Members from across the House to persuade the current Government to invest more, and then to ensure that the Government after that and the one after that also invest more, because if we are to address the inequalities that undoubtedly exist in levels of investment between the north and areas in London and the south of England, investment over the longer term will be required.
What is the best way of doing that? It is partly about devolution. Some devolution deals have relatively recently been agreed—not so far in Yorkshire, but in Manchester, Liverpool and elsewhere. Their newly elected mayors have already established themselves as important voices in our national debate. Alongside that, Transport for the North was formed in 2015 as the first sub-regional transport body in the UK, and many of us were hopeful that it would become a powerful advocate for rebalancing our economy and closing the divide in investment between north and south, with the powers to back that up.
But the reality is that in recent times we seem to have hit the buffers. The Transport Secretary recently told the Yorkshire Post that it was not his responsibility to invest in Yorkshire’s railways. That came shortly after he unilaterally cancelled electrification projects planned for some of the busiest train routes in the country outside London. This is but one example of the stark inequalities that exist between the transport infrastructure of different regions of our country, a point that has been very effectively made by the Yorkshire Post, which has long campaigned on these issues and which, under the editorship of James Mitchinson, has been a powerful voice not just for Yorkshire and the Humber, but for the north more generally.
I think we all accept that London, as our capital city, is a hub for business and tourism, and it is understandable that it will receive a significant amount of investment. But the figures show just how wide the inequality between London and the north has become. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research, analysis of investment over the past 10 years shows that London received £680 per head on average each year while the north got just £282 per head. If the north had received the same level of funding as London, we would have had an additional £59 billion to spend in the last decade.
In many other European countries, decisions about transport spending are made locally or regionally. In other words, they are made by those best placed to understand the problems and priorities in their area. However, recent news highlighted by the Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme raises real concerns about the future direction of Transport for the North. We now know that, on current planning, it will be only a pale imitation of Transport for London. It will have an advisory role but it will not be able to determine or deliver transport priorities. If the Government were really serious about giving that organisation teeth, they would be more ambitious about its remit. Transport for London has been effective in securing additional investment in our capital city. Why should the north of England not have the same?
Transport infrastructure is a key driver of economic growth. Strong transport links between our cities and towns attract businesses, allow people to work over a wider geographical area and increase productivity. Public investment in transport leverages further private transport investment. The reality is that the northern powerhouse will never truly get off the ground without increased transport investment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North said in her recent Yorkshire Post article, the north currently faces the worst of both worlds in that we will not have the money to fund our transport projects and we will not be given the power to raise the money ourselves.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate. As I have said to many previous Transport Ministers, I have 10 railway stations, the largest port in the country and an international airport in my constituency. We therefore deserve better service from the Department than we have received in recent years. However, there is no doubt that the northern powerhouse has been a focus for the Government, and it is delivering some major investment into the north of England. We should be fair to the Government and acknowledge that.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent point. Will he join me in expressing appreciation for the recent investment committed for the Middlewich bypass in my constituency? We have been over 20 years in the waiting. It will not only relieve congestion in the area but open up land to bring new employment into the area in the form of more than 2,000 jobs.
I am very happy to support that, and I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. As I said, we should recognise the fact that there has been significant investment in some parts. The Minister for Transport Legislation and Maritime, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), visited my constituency in August to formally open the A160 upgrade, which gives access to the port of Immingham. Of course, the problem is that we can have very nice access but once we leave Immingham, we hit the very congested A180. The last 15 or 20 miles into Grimsby and Cleethorpes are on a dual carriageway before we get on to the M180.
Yes, the northern powerhouse has attracted significant investment, but we should also acknowledge the fact that many of the plans involve investment between the larger cities of the north—Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and the like—and that there has been some neglect of Humberside, if I dare to use that word, which is derided in northern Lincolnshire. In particular, the south bank of the Humber is in desperate need of a number of important developments.
The devolution argument has centred around metropolitan areas and around metro mayors. In my own county of Lincolnshire, the devolution deal that was on offer this time last year eventually collapsed. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) mentioned that a similar thing had happened in Cumbria. In the north of Lincolnshire, the two unitary authorities serving parts of my constituency—North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire—both supported the devolution deal, so it is quite unfair that we should then somehow be dropped out of the potential investment into the area because the deal was thwarted by other councils. As I have said many times, if the Government really believe in devolution, metro mayors and unitary authorities, they should get on and establish them. That might be somewhat contrary to the devolution argument in some respects, but I have repeatedly said that we should get on with this, because unitary authorities are the way forward. They release more resources for other investment.
The big ask in transport terms for my own constituency —I acknowledge that this is not directly the Minister’s responsibility—is a direct rail service from Grimsby and Cleethorpes through Scunthorpe to the main line and onward to King’s Cross. In days gone by, British Rail operated such a service, but it abandoned it in 1992. It is fair to say that the privatised networks now provide a better service from my constituency to London—there is in effect an hourly service—but the fact that we have to change at either Doncaster or Newark is off-putting and particularly detrimental to many of the businesses that are becoming established in the area. Open access train operators have shown an interest, and I would urge the Department to consider allowing greater involvement for successful operators such as Hull Trains and Grand Central, which operate services out of King’s Cross. The Secretary of State gave a much more favourable answer to a question about open access operators when he responded at the last Transport questions.
The Brigg line is also worthy of mention. It operates a Saturdays-only service. The people in Worksop, Retford, Gainsborough and Brigg would love to be able to get to Cleethorpes on a Saturday. I see that the Chairman of the Transport Committee, the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), is in her place. I travelled that line with her a year or two ago. It is nonsense to have all that infrastructure in place for a service that operates only on one day a week.
Finally, I want to mention HS2. I have been a supporter of HS2 and I recognise that we need a new north-south railway line. If we are going to build one, we must build it to the highest modern standards. However, the reality is that we are talking about delivering a project in 2033, so would it really matter if it was 2035 or 2036? In the meantime, we could release some extra funding for major projects. A few bypasses in some of our constituencies would not go amiss, for example. They would certainly be more valued by many of our constituents, who will miss out on the HS2 project. I can see that time is running out. The Minister is an influential man, and I know that he is sympathetic to the needs of northern Lincolnshire, so I am hoping for a positive response later in the debate.
It is a real pleasure to follow my northern Lincolnshire friend, the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), but first let me congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on setting out the debate so well and reminding us that this is not just about transport but about rebalancing the economy. As the hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak) said, there is a prize to be grabbed here. There is an opportunity, through investment, to do something about the productivity gap that continues to widen, to address regional inequalities and to do something about the gap in investment. Transport can be the real motor for that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) said, if the same amount that has been spent in London over the past decade was spent in the north, we would have seen £59 billion more—a staggering piece of information.
A constituent has written to me, and I want to give a flavour of his take on this debate, because it provides an insight into how people see things locally. Dave Roberts writes:
“You probably already know that, as well as backtracking on the several rail electrification projects promised for the North, the powers and finance to be given to TfN (Transport for the North) are much less than those enjoyed by TfL (Transport for London).
As far as I am aware the Scunthorpe area does not seem to have been included in any of the proposals made for transport in the North. The major proposal seems to be… a new high-speed rail line between Hull and Liverpool. Relatively little extra work would be required to link the current line from Cleethorpes through Scunthorpe to this HS3 line.”
Those are powerful insights into the opportunities that could be utilised with proper investment. The danger for northern Lincolnshire is that not only are we neglected as part of the north, but we are also neglected as part of the northern project. As the hon. Member for Cleethorpes mentioned, Immingham is the largest port in the country by volume and having that port in the heart of our area should mean good transport links, but the links are still woeful despite the recent welcome investment in the A160. The A180 also ought to be upgraded.
The M11 was originally proposed to run from the Peterborough-Cambridge area, where it finishes now, up to the Humber bridge. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that having that as a long-term prospect would boost the north Lincolnshire economy?
The hon. Gentleman is certainly ambitious. However, hauliers in the area will say that the problems with the A15 going south mean that the situation is poor. Investment in and dualling the A15 would make a significant difference to transport links in our area and would build on the concept of an M11-type development. Improvements to the railways would also help. The nature of the line through northern Lincolnshire means that freight trains in particular have to go slow in parts, and strengthening that line would make a significant difference to both the east-west and north-south movement of freight in our area. Railtrack improvement and investment in the A15 would make a significant difference.
We welcome the fact that the coalition Government significantly reduced the Humber bridge tolls after eventually listening to a multi-partner argument, but it is interesting to hear that the Severn bridge tolls are going to disappear altogether. What is good for the south ought to be good for the north, and we ought to have a similar approach to issues in the north. The hon. Member for Cleethorpes also mentioned the value of a direct rail link to our area from London and more investment in the Brigg line, which would benefit Kirton in Lindsey in my constituency and other movement through the area. If the Humber area of northern Lincolnshire, Hull and the east riding is to be the “energy estuary”, we need investment to allow the area to blossom. Transport for the North needs to be given the powers and resources to deliver for the north, but it also needs to remember northern Lincolnshire.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak in this evening’s debate. I stand here as the MP for an east midlands constituency; I hope Members with constituencies further north will allow me to contribute tonight, particularly given that many of my constituents regularly use Sheffield and travel to the north by both rail and road.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on securing this debate, which is important for ensuring that the north has the right level of investment and spending in transport over the long term. Everyone on both sides of the House would agree about the importance of that. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) that this can and should be a relatively non-partisan issue, and I am glad that most of the speeches so far today have been in that spirit.
We need to start by recognising the enormous amount spent and the improvements that have happened over the last few years. Some £13 billion is being spent at the moment. A couple of months ago, we had the commitment to northern powerhouse rail, and the mere setting-up of Transport for the North should be acknowledged as step forward, even accepting the governance issues that remain to be discussed. In my constituency and the associated nearby town of Chesterfield, however, we have significant transport issues and have done for several years. When I was growing up in Chesterfield in the 1980s, people did not want to go to the station. The rolling stock was grotty, and it was often difficult to get a train on time.
I am pleased that over the past 10 to 15 years, as a result of spending by successive Governments, there have been significant improvements for my constituents in North East Derbyshire and for people living in north Derbyshire as a whole. We have a relatively new station in Chesterfield that opened just a few years ago. We have a franchise that is clearly working well, which is testament to how the franchise system can work. The regular trains to London run on time and are clean and relatively efficient, although obviously more can be done.
We can see real progress in Chesterfield, but we should always seek improvements and developments, and I will draw attention to that in my remaining time. First, I recognise that a number of franchises are being retendered, particularly Northern and the midland main line. I hope some of that will have an impact on my constituency, particularly at Dronfield station, where passenger throughput has quintupled over the past 10 years. The station is a real success story in Derbyshire, and it shows how rail can help towns to prosper.
The service changes proposed in some of the franchise documents will not necessarily come to pass, particularly the splitting of the Liverpool to Norwich route at Sheffield, which would force a number of my constituents to change trains to go over the Pennines. Before I joined this place in June I was a regular train user, both over to Manchester on a daily basis in my immediately previous job and regularly to Liverpool in the job before that. I recognise some of the statements made by Members on both sides of the House today about how we need to improve rail infrastructure as a whole.
There is also an argument for talking more about roads. The vast majority of people in my constituency travel by road rather than rail, although I would encourage them to use the good rail links from Chesterfield, and we do need increased investment in roads. The A61 Derby Road at the bottom of Chesterfield cuts through my constituency. It is one of the most constrained and congested A roads in the east midlands, if not the country, and it needs urgent attention. A real solution is needed that will actually solve the problems we have had over a number of decades. There were problems when I was growing up, and I was there when there were problems 16 years ago. There are still problems, and I do not want people to have those problems in 16 years’ time.
This debate has been relatively good natured and very constructive, and I hope that continues. The reality is that we have to get the spending in the north correct. We have to recognise that there is a historical anomaly and a historical imbalance in that spending, but we cannot do it all at once. We need to welcome the progress that has been made, and we need to hope that there is more to come.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for securing this important debate.
Our nation’s transport infrastructure deservedly occupies much of this Chamber’s deliberations. Transport has been a frequent topic of my contributions, and it will remain so until the north of England gets the improved transport connectivity it so desperately needs. Modern, efficient transport infrastructure is a catalyst to growth. Improved regional transport connectivity is the key to unlocking prosperity in my home city of Bradford, and it is essential to fostering wider prosperity across West Yorkshire and the whole of the north of England. It is fundamental to addressing the regional differentials in our economy.
To put it bluntly, the north has had a raw deal from Whitehall. The huge potential in my home city of Bradford and in other towns and cities across the north of England is being held back by creaking infrastructure and a lack of transport investment. It is quicker to travel from London to Paris on Eurostar than it is to travel by rail from Liverpool to Hull. That can and must change, and investment is the key.
Public spending per person on transport in the north of England over the past 10 years was less than half that in London, and that differential is set to get much, much wider. If the north of England had received the same per person as London over these past 10 years, transport, economic performance and prosperity in the north would be in a very different position, and our nation would be better for it. That is central to our debate today, as are economic growth, opportunity, new jobs and prosperity for the north and the nation.
As the Chancellor appreciates, the UK is woefully underperforming compared with other advanced economies when it comes to productivity gains. Without improved productivity, our communities in the north will become incrementally poorer. When the Government talk about fixing this country’s productivity problem, their response must address regional differences. It would be a travesty indeed if average productivity nationally was raised but the improvements continued to be centred in the London and the south-east, rather than being distributed evenly across the UK. That would be a huge missed opportunity, but I fear that is exactly where the Government are heading.
I say that because while Yorkshire’s M62/M606 improvement is under threat on value-for-money concerns, Highways England has committed to multi-million pound investments in the south-east and, in particular, in London. It is systematic bias, and it is at the very heart of the problem. Because of the regional differences in economic performance, these value-for-money judgments on transport infrastructure are skewed. They favour London and are self-reinforcing: London gets investment, its economy benefits and so future investment there looks yet more attractive. This must stop. The Government need to get a better lens through which to view infrastructure investment in the north: one that sets out to solve the problem of regional difference, not one that reinforces it. They need a system that directs investment to the service of rebalancing our economy across the regions.
To make that a reality, all tiers of government must have a programme of strategically planned, long-term and targeted investment. A vital first call on the Government is that they reaffirm their commitment to the trans-Pennine rail electrification.
What my hon. Friend is saying gets to the nub of the whole problem. The Department for Transport has to make economic development a priority as opposed to the alleviation of congestion; if it is about the alleviation of congestion, the money goes to London.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, with which I wholeheartedly agree.
As I was saying, this vital infrastructure project promises not only improved journey times, connecting the economies of the north, but, equally importantly, increasing capacity to support the easy movement of labour across the regional economic area, providing more people with better access to good jobs. The experience of tens of thousands of hard-pressed rail passengers each day is that extra capacity is urgently needed in the north. Many have turned their backs on the railways, as their experience has been so abysmal. That experience goes a long way to explaining why the road traffic flow between Bradford and Leeds, two close neighbours, is by far the highest in the country. Any strategic, long-term and targeted investment plan must recognise that, increasingly, different regions of the UK need a tailored approach, but it must also put regions in the driving seat—with powers and with responsibilities. The north is willing to step up, but the Government need to help and trust the region to get the job done.
It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate, and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for securing it. There is something more important than Transport for the North here, and it has been mentioned in everybody’s remarks: we are looking to get a fair deal in terms of not only spending, although that is clearly important and I am keen on it, but fair opportunities—business and job opportunities—for people across the north. We believe that transport should lead to that point.
The Brexit vote exemplified how people in the north do not feel they are getting a fair deal; they feel they are being left behind, and the figures amply illustrate that. For example, the average gross domestic product in London is £45,000 per head per annum, whereas the figure for the north-east is £18,000. Our Chancellor has said that the difference between the second city in the UK and London, our first city, is greater in economic terms than is the difference in any other country in Europe. Andy Haldane, the chief economist of the Bank of England, has also said that we are at the bottom of the league table on regional disparity; our cities do much worse than other cities, particularly those in Germany.
So the key question is: what do we do to redress that balance? Interestingly, the Institute of Economic Affairs does not think that putting more money into infrastructure is the right thing to do. It said:
“Even if it worked theoretically, timing problems create challenges, whilst cutting spending in ‘good times’ is resisted.”
The investment lag does not bring the return. I do not accept that perspective.
If we consider the industrial revolution, we can talk about Hargreaves and his spinning jenny or Watt and his steam engine. The key thing about the industrial revolution for Josiah Wedgwood was that he could not get his product around the country. He had to persuade the Government and investors to invest in roads and canals so that he could; otherwise, the industrial revolution would have petered out. Any businessperson will say that they want the Government to put the infrastructure into place, and then business will come in to fill the gap.
It is clear that it has worked for London. As Members from all parties have said, London gets a much better deal in terms of the investment per person. As the hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) said, the key thing is getting people around the country. It used to be about goods, but now it is about people: the most important thing is to be able to move people around quickly.
Does my hon. Friend agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) that the Treasury and the Department for Transport need to consider economic development and the rebalancing of the economy as criteria for the allocation of new money, so that it does not go only to the places that are already economically vibrant?
I absolutely agree. I have looked at the figures in detail and, as my hon. Friend said in his speech, the distribution of central Government spending is much more level before other factors are added in. In London, the money allocated by central Government per person per year is about £40 per person, but if other investment is added in—from the European Investment Bank, local authorities and private finance—that is when the disparity occurs. We have to find mechanisms to make sure that the north gets a fair deal. It is not just about central Government distributing money unfairly; other factors are at work, which is why we need to work across party lines to make sure we can deliver a solution.
As I said earlier, the way things are now is how they have been for decades—for generations—so we all need to work together. It is not just north versus south; it is principally London versus the rest of the country. We have a big constituency of MPs and businesses right across the country who have a stake in making sure that we get a fair deal, but we need to look behind the broad, headline figures, because it is simply not right that the Chancellor is allocating lots of money to London and not to the rest of the country. Other factors are at work that we need to take into account and find solutions for.
Once we have found those solutions, there are so many projects that we need to support. It is absolutely right that we should look at northern powerhouse rail or HS3. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) said, we need to look at extending the M11 up to the Humber bridge. We need a tunnel across the Pennines. We also need to look at the small regional roads, such as the A59 and the A1079 in my constituency, and particularly the A64, on which a journey of around 40 miles from York to Scarborough can take two hours. We need more funding for the smaller, less high-profile projects that are so critical to our local economies. If we can get the money—if the people holding the purse strings will give us the tools—we can do the job.
There is obviously a big issue with the disparity between the investment in the transport infrastructure in the north-east of England and the investment elsewhere. We have bus networks that are dislocated, and in rural areas probably non-existent. The road networks are congested and the rail network is neglected. The Institute for Public Policy Research says that half of planned transport spending will go to London, with the north receiving £427 per person, compared with nearly £2,000 per person in London. In fact, over the past five years transport expenditure in the north-east was £3.1 billion, while in London it was £30 billion—in the north-east it is only a tenth of what it is in London.
On the road network, the two main north to south roads through the north-east are the A1, which goes through the centre of Sedgefield, and the A19. The upgrade of the A1 stops at Scotch Corner. It seems as if that upgrade has been going on for years—anyone just has to travel on that road to feel it. Ironically, the A19 is the most congested road. We desperately need a new A19 crossing over the River Tees. Councillor Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council and Chair of the Transport Committee for the Tees Valley combined authority, said that, for far too long, residents of Tees Valley have suffered frustration and delays because our major roads are not equipped to deal with the volume of traffic. The A19 crossing is necessary.
There is also a need for a relief road, which is mentioned in the combined authority’s plans, at junction 60 on the A1, just outside Newton Aycliffe, home to the biggest industrial estate, down to Great Burdon on the A66 to give further access to Teesport. Companies such as Stiller, the road haulier company, say that there is a need for such access. It means that the road would cut past the small village of Brafferton. Any change that takes place must be done sensitively, with the views of the local people taken into consideration.
May I take the opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend on his speech and to mention another reason for needing the road? The residents of Darlington have suffered large vehicles going very close to their homes, with big impacts on road safety and air quality.
Yes, I know that from going down North Road to the railway station to get to London. It takes a long time to get down there, so the congestion must be relieved.
On the railway infrastructure, there has been talk about the Leamside line, which runs down to Tursdale, just north of Ferryhill, which is in my constituency. There has been talk of refurbishing that line for decades now. I remember it being discussed back in the 1980s. To refurbish that route would alleviate a lot of pressure on the east coast main line, and help to ensure that commuters can get from the Tyne to the Tees, and vice versa. It could also lead to the reopening of a station at Ferryhill, which closed many years ago and which commuters could use to get to both the Tyne and the Tees. It would also help the local economy in Ferryhill.
Hitachi, the rail builders, are in my constituency. Although HS2 is a controversial project, Hitachi has been shortlisted to build the rolling stock, which is a £2 billion-plus contract and will create a lot of jobs for the local area. That is important for the north-east and we should not forget it. The actual factory has brought train building full circle. Locomotion No.1 was assembled there back in 1825, and the company is now building the bimodal trains. The Government asked for those trains to be built, because they knew that electrification of the railway would not go forward in the way that we expected.
The last matter I want to mention is Durham Tees Valley Airport, which is also in my constituency. Owned by Peel Airports, it has been through troubled times over the past few years. It only has two routes now: to Schiphol and to Aberdeen. Peel wants to ensure that the airport can be kept open into the future. The newly elected Conservative mayor of Tees Valley says that he wants to nationalise the airport. A few months ago, I asked the Transport Secretary about the plans for nationalising regional airports, and he said that there were not any, which I found interesting as it was the main campaign issue for the Conservative mayor.
Questions need to be asked. If the Minister has had discussions, perhaps he can help us. What kind of nationalisation are we talking about? Is it state-owned nationalisation or a workers’ co-operative? Are we talking about socialism in one airport or is this a Trojan horse? Is it a transitional demand that would lead to the full nationalisation of all the regional airports in the country? We need answers today. Maybe the main thing that should be considered for Durham Tees Valley airport is a third runway at Heathrow. We need investment in the north-east because we have a lot to say but we need the transport infrastructure to spread the news.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on securing this debate. It is a real pleasure and very worth while to follow not only my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson), but so many Members who are speaking from coastal areas in the north. Very often, this debate is characterised by the need for the main cities to be connected up, but of course there are many areas in urgent need of economic development.
As a Parliament, we have to decide what kind of country we want to represent. Is it one in which certain areas get more and more prosperous while others are left to wither, or is it one—I hope that everyone in the Chamber wants this—in which we value communities that are more cut-off from other areas and in which we want to invest in transport to change that? Other areas are obviously not as enticing and attractive as Barrow-in-Furness in my constituency. Nevertheless, they form part of an important economic case.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) for making the case for economic development. We urgently need the Government to change the way in which they make these calculations. We are not talking about a “Field of Dreams”, Kevin Costner-style, “If we build it, they will come” situation. There are already clear economic plans and potential in these areas, but that potential needs to be unlocked. If the Minister and the Government want to relieve congestion in overheated areas in the longer term, they should bring up the economic development of the north of England so that people have more economic opportunities to go elsewhere, rather than feeling that they must be sucked down into the overcrowded, over-congested hell holes that some Members in the south are unfortunate enough to have to represent.
I will confine the rest of my remarks to the need for transport infrastructure, development and investment in Barrow and Furness, and the south and west of Cumbria. I will take the unusual step of speaking on behalf of the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison), who has ironically not been able to get to this debate due to chronic delays in her journey getting down here. She and I are as one in advocating the need for road and rail improvements to connect what can be world-class civil nuclear jobs in the west of Cumbria, with Sellafield and its international decommissioning role, Moorside—the Minister knows from his previous role the importance of keeping the Moorside deal on track—and military nuclear in the submarine programme.
Going back to the Minister’s previous experience, I have met him on the way up to, I assumed, the Moorside and west Cumbria area, so he will know about the appalling transport links between what ought to be a global centre of nuclear excellence. I challenge any other Member to intervene and tell me a worse case than that between Sellafield and BAE Systems. It is ostensibly an A-road going through a farmyard—a single track connecting these two areas of global nuclear excellence. It has to be fixed. We need more clarity from the Government on the major road network, how it will add to the strategic road network and how we will be able to bid.
In my final 40 seconds, let me focus on rail and on the state of the Cumbrian coastal line and the Furness line. We are in utterly dire straits. I have tabled an official question today to deal with one aspect of the catastrophe of the terrible unreliability of the Furness line—the dire need for rolling stock. Almost daily, children are left unable to get home. We need bus services, and we need urgent investment in this line. I hope the Minister listens to us.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for securing this debate.
Since being elected in June and spending half my working week in the bright lights and big city of London, the disparity between the infrastructure down here and back home in west Hull and Hessle has hit me hard. If the House will indulge me for just a moment, it is the evening, we are getting sleepy, and it is time for a story called “The Tale of Two Cities”. A few nights ago, I had to travel to Lewisham via Charing Cross station. When I arrived, I was immediately struck by how quiet it was. All I could hear were the footsteps of the commuters as they ignored each other on their way home. As I walked to my train, I was puzzling out why the station did not sound the same as the one in Hull and why the air was different. At first I wondered, “Is it just because the stereotype of people from the north being more chatty and friendly is true?” but that did not explain the difference in the air. As my train pulled away, the answer struck me: “Of course! The reason why the station is silent and the air is different is that all the trains are electric.” There are no noisy engines spewing out diesel fumes or creating dirt in London. A conscious decision has been made to save the people of London from these polluting, deafening trains and to give them cleaner, greener and faster trains. A conscious decision has been made to leave those slow and polluting trains in the north. Clearly, there is little evidence of the best of times for northerners.
The Government are putting local authorities under pressure to clean up toxic air, but that would put my city of Hull in a difficult position, because, as the Campaign for Better Transport states,
“Diesel engines score badly for nitrogen oxide…and particulate emissions.”
It gave two examples of breaches in limits for NOx caused by diesel trains—one at London Paddington in 2015, and one involving 50% higher emissions up to 200 metres either side of the east coast main line.
The Labour-run council in Hull is doing everything it can to improve prospects for people living there. What we have done this year as the capital of culture has defied our fiercest critics, and we are creating quality jobs. This Government claim to believe in equality of opportunity, but actions speak louder than words, and we face not having the spare transport capacity to accommodate growth. Rail journeys are also slower, and the road network is becoming increasingly congested.
The lack of investment in the north is hindering our development. Yes, okay, the Government pledged £330 million to improve rail transport, but that is for the whole of the north, and the Transport for London budget for rail, not including underground rail, is £600 million. Then the Government offered us bimodal trains, the problems of which have been highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North.
Then we come to roads and the infamous junction on Castle Street in my constituency—a junction the Minister might already have some understanding of and which he might be slightly tired of hearing about. The road connects Hull city centre in the west to the dock areas of the port of Hull in the east. Estimates by Highways England have stated that 47,000 vehicles travel along the road every day from the city to the port. This level of usage demonstrates that Castle Street is a vital arterial road for the economy of Hull and the surrounding area. At present, the level of usage on the road is unsustainable and creates large amounts of congestion, which can lead to significant delays in journeys, particularly at peak times, and to significant costs to local businesses using the road.
It was planned to submit the development consent order to the Government in May. Then it was delayed to October. Now it has been delayed until summer next year. This saga has been going on since 2009, and it cannot be delayed any further. I met the Secretary of State and the Minister the week before last, asking for two things: I wanted the building of the bridge across the A63 brought forward, and I wanted the Secretary of State to write to Highways England to demand that there will no further delays to this project and that the development consent order will be accepted. Credit where it is due: he did meet Highways England and it has agreed to bring forward the building of the bridge, but I still do not have the reassurance that I need that the project will not be delayed any further. Will the Minister therefore take this opportunity to offer the people of Hull West and Hessle the reassurances we need on this vital development?
The rejection, during this Parliament, of the electrification of railways in my constituency, and delay after delay to our road development, are limiting our future economic development and the improvement in air quality that residents need. Without the level of investment Labour promised in our manifesto, these “worst of times” show no sign of ending.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on securing this debate, which is really important and timely, and thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting it.
The A19 is one of the principal economic drivers—no pun intended—in my constituency. It is vital for the export-focused manufacturing businesses in my region, particularly Caterpillar, NSK Bearings, and—until it closes just before Christmas—the Walkers potato crisp factory. Many businesses are dependent on a functioning A19, which too often is left at a standstill for hours on end following multiple road accidents, which are almost a daily occurrence. The lack of investment, maintenance and upgrading of this vital economic highway is clearly holding back businesses in my constituency. I have tabled numerous questions on this, and I urge Conservative MPs who want to work co-operatively to sign early-day motion 267. The Government have yet to deliver on a proper investment strategy for this vital road. We need a Government with some foresight who seek to future-proof our infrastructure and support the development of our regional economy. The billions that, as colleagues have mentioned, are being ploughed into Crossrail in London, which already has an embarrassment of riches in terms of excellent public transport links, will see the capital pull further away from the regions, particularly the northern regions.
I welcome the Government’s decision to invest in the new railway station at Horden, which will create much needed links with towns all across the region. However, that needs to be linked with a new fleet of trains and improvements at Seaham station—and of course we need to keep the guard on the train. If we genuinely want to rebalance the economy, an airport congestion charge would help to lower airfares in under-utilised regional airports like our own at Newcastle and Durham Tees Valley while charging a premium to use the most congested and polluting airports like Heathrow. The Metro system is a fantastic service serving the people of Newcastle and Sunderland, but we need it to connect our entire region. I will never stop calling for the Metro to be extended into my constituency. However, this seems like a fanciful dream when we consider that the Government are still haggling over the replacement of the Metro trains, which are 47 years old, and rolling stock that is simply not fit for purpose. The Government need to replace their rhetoric with action.
The north-east is a fantastic region, neglected by Governments who have been unwilling to invest and support a better future. My constituency offers many hidden gems. We have a vibrant and active arts community, with the East Durham Artists Network. There are iconic public artworks such as the Tommy and Marra statues. We have an award-winning heritage coastline, with the England coastal path running through my constituency. There is the local nature reserve in Easington and our ancient woodland of Castle Eden Dene. These are hidden gems, and they will remain so until we have the infrastructure that will connect our past and our heritage to our future.
The north-east and east Durham have the skills, the history and the heritage to succeed in business, manufacturing, and tourism. What we lack is a Government who are committed to delivering real investment for our region. I commend Durham County Council and all the local authorities in the region for working around some of the most difficult budget cuts imposed by central Government, which have disproportionately affected my region and my constituency. The longer we allow the lack of investment to continue, the greater the economic divide between London and the south-east and the rest of the country will become. The Government need to future-proof our infrastructure, invest in our economy and reap the benefits of a more prosperous north-east.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for securing this important debate. Like many colleagues, I have been contacted by a number of constituents who have highlighted the problems that they face with transport and infrastructure in the constituency. Although many of the points they raised are specific and pertinent to Leigh, many of my constituents’ concerns form part of the wider economic and social problems that towns in the north face.
Small businesses tell me of their struggles when their customers find it extremely difficult to travel into town, with limited public transport provision and no train station in the constituency. Commuters have told me of their struggles with out-of-town train stations, which are difficult to access and have limited parking; and with overcrowded carriages, which add to the frustration of not having access to their own local station. Residents have told me of their struggle to remain engaged with their community when their bus services have been dramatically cut, severing critical transport links for thousands of people.
Does my hon. Friend agree that for people with no other option, the withdrawal of a bus service can be devastating? Despite that, 400 supported routes have been downgraded or cut, year on year, since 2010. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) has said, my region of Yorkshire and Humber has experienced local transport funding cuts of 37%. I am not going to ask the Minister for more money—I am sure he would say no—but can he, in his summing up, please explain to us why the Government are denying my area the bus franchise powers needed to improve services?
Order. The hon. Lady could have made a speech if she wanted to, but this is rather a long intervention at this stage in the evening, and it will stop someone else speaking. I will allow her to ask her question very quickly.
Thank you so much, Madam Deputy Speaker; I appreciate your patience. If the power to deliver more services is good enough for London, Manchester and Liverpool, surely it is good enough for Batley and Spen.
I thank my hon. Friend for that point, and I completely agree with her.
My constituency was among many in the north that formed the engine of the industrial revolution. I am going to include the spinning jenny, seeing as everyone else has done so. The key to my constituency’s success was not only the ingenious and powerful inventions, but its connectivity to the regional and national economy. However, since then the country has turned its back on the industrious and innovative towns of the north.
Although there has, since the 1980s, rightly been investment in our great northern cities—Manchester to the east, and Liverpool to the west—our crumbling transport infrastructure cannot cope with demand and suffers from chronic underinvestment. Our road and motorway networks are gridlocked, our trains are over capacity and, with cuts to local authority budgets, our public transport system no longer serves the most disconnected in our communities.
Great things were promised to the residents of Leigh when HS2 was announced. It would boost connectivity and the regional economy, and the disruption would be mitigated by the benefits of improved infrastructure. Instead, however, HS2 is due to split my constituency in two, uprooting residents and causing enormous disruption. Leigh will be the largest town in the north without a rail station, and I am aware of no current plans to connect Leigh with any station. To add insult to injury, when I asked the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), who has responsibility for HS2, about the matter in a written question, his response was that the Department had never assessed the cost of a direct rail line or ways to reduce journey times between Leigh and HS2. To spell out what that means, it will take longer for my residents in one area of my constituency to connect to HS2 than it will for them to travel from that area into Birmingham, which is not right.
I make this case not just because of the need for transport and infrastructure, which I do not believe would instantly solve all our problems, but because an improved transport infrastructure would directly assist a number of concerns unique to Leigh, such as the social mobility problem, the ongoing skills shortage and the under-investment in local businesses. We therefore need from the Government an assurance of investment, and an assurance that any investments in the local transport infrastructure via regional bodies such as Transport for the North and Transport for Greater Manchester are based on a published assessment of local economic needs.
In conclusion, this debate is not just about transport links in the north, but about the entire regional economy. I welcome this Government’s commitment to the northern powerhouse project, but it cannot succeed unless every town in the north is connected and offered the same opportunities as the inner cities. We cannot expect the regional economy to boom when so many towns are being held back. Put quite simply, the north will succeed when our northern towns succeed. I hope this debate will highlight the importance of transport connectivity to our local economies and ensure that towns such as Leigh receive their fair share of investment in the future.
Order. I am afraid that I have to reduce the time limit to four minutes.
I pay tribute to and thank the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for bringing this matter to the House, and I back up many of the words used by the hon. Member for Leigh (Jo Platt), who said this debate is about the regional economy, not simply about transport infrastructure.
Without a doubt, the United Kingdom is rare in that as a developed larger country we are essentially unipolar. The fact that our capital is more than seven times bigger than our second biggest city hints at the inequality that exists across the whole of this country. The fact that only two of the regions or nations of the United Kingdom make a positive GDP contribution to our overall economy demonstrates that regional inequality is not just morally wrong, but a colossal waste of space and talent.
I want to make the few minutes available to me count by drawing attention to the disparity in the debate even on the development of northern transport. The centrepiece, as it were, of the northern powerhouse is HS2. I support it, but it is clearly a southerner’s concept of what is good for the north: the idea is that all we need for fulfilment is to get to London just a little bit quicker. The fact is that east-west interconnectivity all the way up and down the north of England—the A69 right the way down to the M60, the A66 and A65, and all points in between, as well as the rail networks—is even more important, dare I say it, than the north-south link.
It is important that we, as northerners, stick together and have northern solidarity, but I am still bound to say that people from the north of the north and, even more, from the rural parts of the north of the north find themselves even further down the list of priorities. When the Chancellor recently met people to discuss the northern powerhouse, whom did he meet? He met the Mayors of Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Teesside, not representatives of the vast majority of people in the north of England who live in more rural communities elsewhere.
Transport for the North’s glossy recent publication gives three and a half lines to the tourism economy of Cumbria, which is of course Britain’s second biggest destination after the city we are in now. One of the consequences of the lack of prioritisation of Cumbria in particular has been the betrayal of our community with the cancellation of the planned electrification of the Lakes line. The fact that we now have downsized and reduced quality rolling stock—30-year-old Thames Valley rejects—means that the bi-mode trains will be a Heath Robinson affair. As the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) has pointed out, the Furness line, like the Lakes line, has poorer quality rolling stock and many delayed and cancelled trains. I ask the Minister to focus on bringing back the electrification of the Lakes line, which was promised and then withdrawn.
In the few seconds I have left, I draw attention to the need to provide a northern relief road—the development road that would unlock the housing potential of the industrial estate to the north-east of Kendal. We must bear in mind how vital it is to have rural bus services that work and serve every part of our community. In our great county of Cumbria, two years on since Storm Desmond, there are still bridges, such as that in Burneside, yet to be put back. The £25 million bid that we put in for those bridges to be restored was turned down by the Government.
If you back Cumbria, you back a winner. It was given world heritage site status just a few months ago. Investment in the north and in our part of the north will build this country up and give a massive return on that investment.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for securing this debate, and not least for the opportunity to be surrounded by so many northerners.
The 1980s Thatcherite initiative of bus deregulation and privatisation has been an unmitigated disaster for my constituents in North West Durham. The model introduced competition between private companies because it was wrongly thought that it would increase the range and regularity of services, but it has done the absolute opposite. Privatisation, taken alongside the 30%-plus bus funding cuts to my local authority and the overall 18% transport funding cut in the region, means that my constituents are paying more than people in other areas of the country, waiting longer and enduring ridiculous travel times just to get a few miles down the road.
Added to that, Consett has been ill-served by central Government transport cuts and the neglect of the region. It is one of the largest towns in Britain without a train station and it has inadequate road infrastructure, much of which is made up of single carriageways in dire need of repair.
The situation with the buses is the most pressing. I never thought I would get so obsessed with buses! One constituent who lives in Stanley Crook got a job in Consett, which is only 13 miles away, but it would take him more than 2 hours and 30 minutes to get there by public transport. Down here, I can get to work for £3 return. I have never had to run for a bus or wait for long. One of my team who works in my Consett office has to pay £6.20 to get there from Durham. He has to pay more than double what I have to pay to get to his place of work. It costs many people in my constituency more than £7 a day to get to Newcastle.
Many of my constituents in Weardale could get to London quicker than they can get to their nearest cities. One bus in Weardale operates to Newcastle on a Tuesday, but if they miss the return bus, they have to wait three days for another return to the dale. In many parts of my constituency, people cannot get a bus after 8 pm, on a Sunday or on a bank holiday Monday. Many older people have to either struggle up hills with their shopping or use taxis, rendering their bus pass meaningless.
I wonder whether the Minister would be surprised to learn that the same operators who operate in my hon. Friend’s constituency and mine make twice as much profit there as they do in London, yet we are not allowed to regulate our buses.
We are not asking for much more than what London already has. I agree with my hon. Friend.
I do not want to politically sanitise this debate. I think that transport and public transport are immensely political. I also think that it is a class issue, because the people who use the services in my constituency are not the type of people who are hiding away millions in offshore trusts. They are hard-working people, many of them on the minimum wage, who have to spend hundreds of hours travelling to their place of work or study, instead of on leisure time, and who pay proportionately so much more for the pleasure.
There is no such thing as the northern powerhouse; it is a fallacy constructed by this Government to divert people’s attention away from the grave inequalities of our region’s funding. There will be no resurgence of the north-east’s post-industrial towns, including those in my constituency, if it is not backed up by funding and a shift in the priorities of the Government about what my constituents should expect from the service. Do the Government think that we are somehow second-class citizens and that because we are used to poor transport and to not being connected, we can just be ignored? We always seem to be second; we always seem to have the oldest stock; we always seem to get less than other parts of the region.
Local authorities must be able to have an area-based strategy that sets out the routes, prices and frequency of buses so that local people are not at the mercy of the profits of private companies who will only fund the most profitable routes. How can the Government justify the £1,943 a person, which other Members have mentioned, being spent in London on current or planned projects compared with just £222 in the north-east? How can that possibly be justified? The people of Weardale and Consett, and all the other areas in my constituency, deserve much better.
We should, of course, reduce emissions and we should therefore encourage people to use public transport wherever they can. Most mornings, however, many of my constituents taking the train from Dewsbury or Mirfield to Leeds, Manchester or Huddersfield will find themselves running late, usually without a seat, and feeling frustrated and annoyed. They are, inevitably, paying over the odds for the privilege. I am sure other Members on the Opposition Benches could join me in offering stories from our constituents who try to get to work on trains nearly as old as me— and I am 42!—which are overcrowded and late-running Pacer trains. This is causing misery for commuters across the north. The number of Conservative MPs remaining in the Chamber this evening is indicative of the fact that it is no secret the north has been let down by the Government.
Our country is one of the most over-centralised in Europe. The London-centric view of Britain dominates at every level: in our politics, in our media and in most things we do. That is not just bad for the north, but for the entire country and the economy. Without jobs, businesses and opportunities for people in the north, the Government’s northern powerhouse is nothing more than a slogan. As we saw over the summer, the Government are still pouring money into London at the expense of northern communities just like mine. This cannot and must not carry on.
Spending on transport in Yorkshire will be roughly £250 a head from 2016-17 onwards, compared with almost £2,000 a head in London. Is it any wonder that northerners are sick of this Government, especially as the population of the north is twice that of London? I find it difficult to articulate just how angry I was in the summer when the Secretary of State for Transport was somehow able to find £30 billion for Crossrail 2 in London, despite downgrading plans for Crossrail for the north just the week before. But do you know what? It is not simply the lack of investment and interest in the north that upsets me about the Government; it is their lack of ambition for towns and constituencies just like mine. I will work with anybody who can bring the same level of jobs, growth, opportunities and investment to the north that we have seen in London and the south-east, so why on earth will the Government not do exactly that? Crossrail for the north could bring in £100 billion to the northern economy and upward of 850,000 jobs. After years of chronic underfunding in the north, if the Government find themselves in a situation where only one scheme can progress, surely it needs to be Crossrail for the north?
Northern MPs on all sides of the House need to stand up and say clearly that, at least just this once, the Government must not leave our northern communities at the back of the queue. The Government should be speaking to our Mayors, our fantastic councillors and council leaders, and to proud northern communities like mine. We sit here 200 miles away in Westminster talking about what is best for the north. We have a so-called “Minister for the Northern Powerhouse” whose office is in SW1. I say to the Government that we can have all the grand gestures and fancy slogans in the world, but without the real and honest political will on the Government Benches, as well as on our side, northerners will carry on being let down. Our side of the House has always proudly stood up for the north, and we are ready and waiting to reboot the northern economy. So please, Minister, no more broken promises from this Government. It is beyond time that the north got moving. It is time for our proud northern towns, cities and villages to come to life.
The Minister will have heard throughout the debate, not just from my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff), the frustration of the people in the north at the lack of ambition shown by the Government, and even successive Governments, in terms of the need for better quality transport. If the north was able to close the productivity gap with London and the south-east, it would dramatically change the country’s economic prospects. The Minister has to go back to his Department and say that its pre-occupation with London and the south-east does no service to the people of this country, including those in London and the south-east.
At the end of the day, the issue of transport is not about individual schemes, important though some of them are, but about connectivity and building networks that can make a difference. If we can build networks across the north that allow our people to get in and out of work and to the outside world, we will transform the economy of the nation. Every Labour Member tonight has talked about the need for local connectivity. In Rochdale, people struggle to get on the local trains in the morning and again in the evenings. That is not good enough in 21st-century Britain.
It is not good enough that people cannot easily get to an international airport just down the road. I would like to say a few words about Manchester airport. When the new service from Manchester to Beijing opened, the results were dramatic. It has been suggested that we will see an extra 850 jobs as a result. We have seen a doubling of the amount of spending by Chinese tourists in the north of England—in places such as the Lake District and Liverpool, as well as Manchester—and exports to China have shot up dramatically, effectively by a quarter. That is clear evidence that when we invest in, and utilise the capacity of, the north of England, we can transform what the north is about. We need to transform the north. We need the Department for Transport to drop its assumption that the national interest is equivalent to the interests of London and the south-east—it is not; the national interest is consistent with development in the north.
Greater Manchester needs connectivity. The constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Jo Platt) need it to get to work, to places of entertainment—wherever they need to get to—just as much as my constituents do at the other end of Greater Manchester. Greater Manchester put to the Government a plan for a second transport fund consistent with the one some years ago that would have allowed us to transform the infrastructure of Greater Manchester and change how people travel across the conurbation, and in a way consistent with what we would expect to see in other major European cities. We are told, however, that the Government are not interested in that scheme.
It is that lack of ambition that Ministers must challenge. The Minister must go back to the Department and say, “Stop thinking that Britain is only London and the south-east. Think about the whole nation and about investment across the piece”. Whether it is the north-east, Yorkshire and Humberside, or the north-west, from Carlisle down to Cheshire, our region matters. Our region can stop the overheating of the economy in one city. It can change the profile of modern Britain in a way consistent with the national interest and the interests of people in London and the south.
I thank the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for bringing forward this debate.
When I was told that I was scheduled to wind up in this debate, entitled “Transport in the North”, for the Scottish National party, I immediately started researching the train timetables to Aberdeen, Wick, Thurso and beyond, and I leapt for my ferry timetable to Orkney and Shetland—not because I suddenly felt the need to run away, but because my understanding of the “north” differs from that of most of tonight’s speakers. That said, Scotland experiences many of the same issues as the north of England, and I can empathise with most who have spoken tonight.
I worked in Darlington for seven years, and my friends and colleagues often complained that investment was far greater down south. I heard the same complaints when I worked in Leeds and Birmingham. When I worked in Shoreham-by-Sea and stayed in Hove, the complaints there were that London pulled in all the money. There is a disproportionate amount of investment in infrastructure in general and transport in particular in the south, and specifically London.
Given that Brexit is to hit parts of Scotland worst, we must diminish the harm that southern infrastructure does to Scottish economies. Aberdeen could be the city worst hit by falling economic output due to a hard Brexit. A report last week from the centre for cities and the centre for economic performance at the London School of Economics said that all cities would see a fall in output owing to increasing trade costs, and Aberdeen and Edinburgh were ranked among the 10 most affected cities.
Connecting HS2 to Scotland must be a priority. Extending high-speed rail to include Scotland would provide an opportunity to create a more successful country through increasing sustainable economic growth, make Scotland an even more attractive place to do business and provide more and better employment opportunities for people. If HS2 stops at Leeds and Manchester, Scotland will lose out, as it will be relatively further away from London and the other great English cities. The SNP manifesto of 2017 stated:
“Connecting Scotland to HS2 must be a priority, with construction beginning in Scotland as well as England, and a high speed connection between Glasgow, Edinburgh and the north of England as part of any high-speed rail network.”
However, HS2 is not just about physical build; it can and should build skills and capability, and provide jobs for a generation. There is no reason why those jobs cannot be provided throughout the United Kingdom. Scotland is already positioning itself as a hub for high-speed rail expertise, and Heriot-Watt University’s high-speed rail centre of excellence puts Scotland on the map as a place for specialist high-speed rail knowledge. The shadow Chancellor has expressed Labour’s support for the extension of HS2 to Scotland. If the Scottish Tory MPs are, as they say, a voice for Scotland and therefore support that extension, a majority in the House is favour of it. The question for Scotland’s Tories now is whether they will back growing cross-party calls, or stay silent and sell Scotland out once again.
Of course, moving people from north to south and from south to north is not enough. We must also move from east to west and from west and east, and enable our large cities to be fed by their suburbs. HS2 is not the be-all and end-all. Scotland has the option to look towards our Nordic neighbours and build better links to northern Europe, but we value our relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom—when it is on an even footing. Today the First Minister of Scotland, addressing the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said:
“I am determined for us to take the necessary steps to secure Scotland’s future and improve our connectivity with England…This…could have significant benefits for people and businesses on both sides of the border.”
As we in Scotland try to improve our rail links to England, the UK Government are not helping. I am deeply disappointed by their decision to cut Scotland’s share of Network Rail funding. The most recent offer of grant funding from the Treasury for Network Rail is not consistent with the funding arrangements introduced at the point of devolution, offering a 10.43% rather than an 11.17% share. That is about £600 million short of the early estimates from the rail industry of what would be required to renew the network and meet projected demands for rail use.
In 2016, the UK and Scottish Governments jointly commissioned work to identify options for improvement on the east and west coast rail corridors, with a focus on delivering three-hour journeys between Scotland and London. According to the First Minister,
“these studies will confirm we will be able to reduce the journey time between Edinburgh and Newcastle by a third, down to only one hour, and also reduce journey times between Glasgow and Edinburgh and Carlisle.”
The Scottish Government built the Borders Railway, which is the longest new line built in the UK for over a century, and they would welcome a discussion about extending it to Carlisle.
If the Government continue to fund transport disproportionately, they will continue to feed the beast that has created the disparity that we all seek to end. As Scotland builds to the south the UK Government must build in the north, so that we can have the true connectivity that will bring benefit to all of us.
I welcome the debate, and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on initiating it.
This issue goes to the heart of the current political debate about the fairness and justice of our economic system, and the equity of the way in which our resources are distributed. I know that the Secretary of State will be busy, but I am sure that the people of the north would be interested to learn what the Minister’s boss considered to be more important and deserving of his personal attention tonight.
If the north of England were a stand-alone nation, it would be among the 10 biggest economies in Europe. It has a population of 16 million, more than a million businesses, and exports worth more than £50 billion. The north makes an enormous contribution to the success and prosperity of the UK, but poor transport infrastructure constrains its potential. The divide in north-south transport spending is scandalous, unsustainable, and profoundly damaging. In the last five years, the Government spent £21.5 billion across the north, compared with more than £30 billion spent in London alone, although the north has nearly twice the population of our capital.
Rail connectivity between the city regions of the north of England is the key issue in this debate, and the Northern and TransPennine rail operations are catalysts for delivering the economic improvements. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North said, it is scandalous that, under today’s rail infrastructure, travelling from London to Paris takes an hour less than travelling west-east from Liverpool to Hull.
When the franchises were awarded in December 2015, the then Transport Secretary said:
“Crucially, in a key step towards full devolution, these contracts will be managed in Leeds by a joint team from the Department for Transport and Rail North, which represents the region’s 29 local transport authorities.”—[Official Report, 9 December 2015; Vol. 603, c. 369WS.]
The current Secretary of State said in August this year:
“I want the North to take control”
of its transport. He also said that, rather than delivering the investment the Conservatives had promised, he would instead devolve power, so the north could “take control” and
“build the transport links the North needs to thrive”.
But the promise of powers have, like the promise of investment, not materialised. Transport for the North will only be a “statutory influencer”—whatever on earth that could be—only having the right to prepare a strategy and provide the Secretary of State with advice. Transport for the North will not be able to borrow money or fund investment like Transport for London. So will the Minister explain how the north can “take control” when the Department for Transport has the power of veto over it? Former Conservative Minister Lord O’Neill recently said that the north cannot take ownership without power. This is the latest insult to the north, and it is another betrayal.
Can the Minister confirm whether 40 civil servants are working within his Department on northern transport policy? If so, what is the relationship between those civil servants and Transport for the North? In short, who is working for whom?
With the Tories in power, rail fares have risen at twice the rate of wages and, in a move the Conservatives would have surely planned as voters went to the ballot box, the electrification projects were delayed by years within weeks of the election, before eventually being cancelled within weeks of the 2017 election.
Adding insult to injury, the Transport Secretary claims that bi-mode diesel-electric trains running on electrified track deliver the same benefits as electrification, and that it does not matter how trains are powered and passengers will be spared unsightly electric wires. May I tell the Minister that passengers in the south do not seem to mind them? What evidence does the Minister have to substantiate these claims? Network Rail and his own Department agree that, running on diesel, 30% more CO2 is emitted, maintenance is increased by a third, fuel costs rocket by a quarter and journeys are slower.
Not so long ago we had the Northern hub; now we have Northern Powerhouse Rail. Is the Minister able to give the House a breakdown of where the pledged £1 billion will be spent, and can he confirm that he supports Transport for the North’s call for the realignment of the HS2 route on the approach to Manchester Piccadilly?
Labour will deliver full devolution of transport to the north of England and provide a better deal for the region, which is why we have made a commitment of at least £10 billion to deliver “Crossrail for the north”, a series of major rail improvements across existing west-east links in the north of England. We will reverse decades of under-investment in northern transport infrastructure that has undermined the economic potential of the north of England and help deliver 850,000 new jobs by 2050. Labour will work alongside its Mayors in Manchester and Liverpool, as well as local authorities across the north, to bring forward the resources needed to help unlock the £97 billion of economic potential in the north.
In contrast, the Government’s approach to rail investment has been promises, postponements and cancellations. The rail industry has to have confidence if it is to invest; sadly, the feast and famine history of rail programmes does not give the industry the confidence it needs. The Conservative party claims to be the champion of industry and enterprise. In practice, its actions in government undermine those objectives at every turn.
Labour is determined to put an end to the buses crisis brought about by this Government. More than 20% of all journeys by public transport are taken by bus, and buses are vital for tackling social exclusion and poverty, yet bus services in the north have faced a sustained attack since 2010, with funding in the north-east, the north-west and Yorkshire and the Humber slashed by 22%, 23% and 37% respectively. As a consequence, bus travel is at its lowest level for a decade, while fares have risen 13% above inflation.
For some, a bus service connects them to their job or to their doctor, and its removal can be devastating for people who have no other options. Labour would end the bus crisis by extending the powers to regulate buses across the country, by overturning the senseless ban on new municipal bus companies, by allowing cuts to services to be reversed and by putting communities rather than commercial operators in charge of essential public transport.
Sadly, the Conservatives have failed to provide sufficient investment in cycling or walking over the last seven years. This year’s long-awaited cycling and walking investment strategy offered almost no investment and no meaningful policies or targets. Only £6 per head was spent on cycling across England over 2016-17. Cycling UK estimates that this investment is heavily weighted towards London, with only £316 per head over the five-year period of April 2016 to 2021 going towards both cycling and walking, working out at £1.38 per person in England outside London.
Northern MPs have rightly spoken of the need for greater transport infrastructure investment in the north of England, but we do not underplay or undervalue the vital role played by our capital city. I know that the Minister for rail, the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard)—who is not with us this evening—prefers to focus on outcomes rather than per capita spending, and while it is right to value London as an engine room of the UK economy, the north is a sleeping giant ready to be raised from its slumbers. That cannot happen unless the north receives the fair funding settlement it deserves in order to fulfil its economic potential.
Transport is not an end in itself; it is a means—an enabler of social and economic growth. Constraining transport constrains human potential, and it is about time the true potential of the north was unleashed.
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on securing this debate on transport in the north, which has, by and large, been well informed, energetic and not overly partisan. My colleagues and I know that securing transport improvements is crucial for her constituents, as it is for all of us. In fact, from either side of the House, both this evening’s debate and the wider debate on this issue in recent weeks demonstrate how broad the recognition now is that good transport really matters to our economic lifeblood. That might sound obvious—it is a point that has been made frequently this evening—but it is a fact that has been overlooked by successive Governments until now. It has resulted in a legacy of under-investment, as many colleagues have pointed out. This Government are putting that right.
Other Members have pointed out that the north of England is already a very important economic actor in our national life. It is not a sleeping giant. It is a lively, active and energetic giant. With a population of 15 million, more than 1 million businesses and exports upwards of £50 billion, the north of England makes a huge contribution to the success and prosperity of the UK. If the north were a country, it would be among the 10 biggest economies in Europe, but growth in that economy has been inhibited by poor transport, as has been said many times this evening. Without significant investment in modern, efficient, reliable connections, the vast economic potential of the north cannot be realised. That is why the Government are spending £13 billion on improving northern transport.
Many Opposition Members and, indeed, some Conservative Members behind me claimed today that we spend more in the south than in the north. However, the figures they have used, which rely on a particular IPPR report, are misleading and certainly do not represent the true picture of investment. The first point is that, of the project pipeline that was used, 60% cannot be properly geographically allocated. The second point is that the figures completely understate the role that London has not as a southern city, but as the gateway for many tourists and other visitors to this country. I will give one example: the number of rail passengers at peak morning times in London is 18 times that in Manchester, which is the busiest city in the north. The figures are misleading and it is important to put that on the record.
Wil the Minister give way?
I have so many points to make that I have to proceed; I have only nine minutes left.
Promoting that misinformation is not helpful to our public debate. It misinforms the travelling public and risks undermining confidence in the north when it should be robust. That is frustrating for the Government when we are working so hard to overcome decades of under-investment in the north. We are investing in road and rail, in near-term projects and in ones that will take years to complete. We want to transform journeys for passengers and drivers and to create the capacity that the north needs to flourish.
However, we are not just investing; we are devolving power to the north to ensure that future investment is put to the best possible use. I remind the House that Transport for the North has not yet been established, because the process is complex and involves 56 authorities. It will be the first statutory sub-national transport body to be established. Its structure is well understood, and Transport for the North is comfortable with it. There is no comparison with Transport for London, which is an institution of much greater standing and longevity. Transport for the North will start strongly—hopefully by the end of this year—as a statutory body and will grow from there.
Perhaps the clearest statement of this Government’s commitment to the north is the fact we are now building HS2—the first new north-south railway in this country for over a century. It is a huge undertaking, but we are backing this vital project, because it is crucial to the future economy of the north. With high-speed rail stations in Manchester, Leeds, Crewe and Sheffield, and high-speed trains serving many other destinations, the north will be the principal beneficiary of HS2. It will open in 2026 and up to 18 trains will be running each hour by 2033, carrying up to 1,100 passengers each and releasing significant new capacity on the existing railways.
However, we know that better connectivity within the north is just as vital as better links to the rest of the country, a point which has been well made this evening. That is why we are also committed to northern powerhouse rail, which will provide fast rail connections between the major cities of the north. Transport for the North will develop proposals for the scheme, backed by £60 million of Government funding as a capital investment in the scheme plus £60 million—£10 million a year—of revenue funding. We are working with Transport for the North to strengthen the business case for the project, and the Government have already committed £300 million to integrate the Northern Powerhouse Rail project with HS2, making it easier and less disruptive to build that railway in the future.
HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will provide the future capacity and connectivity that the north needs to grow and flourish, but it is important to say that we are also investing in nearer-term improvements. Better rail journeys through the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises will deliver more than 500 brand-new train carriages, with room for 40,000 more passengers and 2,000 extra services a week. All trains on the Northern and TransPennine route will be brand-new or refurbished by 2020 and, crucially, the Pacer trains will be gone.
We are also making near-term infrastructure improvements: the great north rail project has already seen the fastest journey between Liverpool and Manchester cut by 15 minutes; Manchester Victoria has been upgraded; new platforms have been added at key stations; and there are new direct services between Manchester airport and Glasgow. We are also well on the way to upgrading Liverpool Lime Street and other key routes in the region. And we will soon be marking the completion of the Ordsall chord, which will provide new and direct links to Manchester airport from across the region, as the hon. Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) rightly highlighted.
We are also working with Network Rail to develop options for major upgrades between Manchester, Leeds and York to deliver more seats and faster journeys. As the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) will know, we are also supporting the Tyne and Wear Metro system with £317 million for its reinvigoration and renewal programme and £230 million towards its running costs—I was pleased to meet the senior team about its investment bid for the refurbishment of rolling stock.
With so much investment going in, we also want to make it easier for people to use the railways in the north, which is why we have committed £150 million to the roll-out of smart ticketing across the north. Smart ticketing will allow people to use their mobile phones and contactless and smart cards on trains, trams and buses.
Although we have not heard much about it in this debate, and although rail investment is crucial, the Government are acutely aware that most journeys are made by road, so we are spending almost £3 billion to make journeys faster and more reliable on the north’s roads and motorways. We are building smart motorways and new roads, and we are improving the ones we already have. We are delivering extra lanes, improvements to problem junctions, new junctions to ease traffic jams, bypasses and simple schemes to make journeys smoother.
The M62 between Leeds and Manchester is being upgraded to a four-lane smart highway. The A556 from Knutsford to Bowden has been expanded to a dual carriageway, helping the more than 50,000 vehicles a day that use that crucial route. The new Mersey Gateway crossing has recently opened, greatly improving connectivity in the area. Work is under way on the A6 Manchester Airport relief road, which will improve access to the airport and relieve congestion in south-east Manchester.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) and his opposite number, the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), who is no longer in his seat, will be delighted that the A160/A180 port of Immingham improvements were completed in June, upgrading the gateway to one of the UK’s busiest ports to full dual carriageway standard.
I might also tell the hon. Member for Scunthorpe, who is not here—[Hon. Members: “He is here.”] I am so sorry. I apologise to him. He has moved from his seat. I am delighted to address him directly through you, Mr Speaker. He seems to have forgotten that we wrote off £150 million of debt on the Humber bridge only a few years ago, thus lowering the cost of tolls and improving usage.
By the end of 2017 we will have removed the last remaining section of non-motorway on the strategic M1/A1 route between London and Newcastle. I could go on, but I will not. Our airports—Newcastle, Leeds, Bradford and Manchester—are all succeeding. I am delighted that all that, and more, is being done by this Government.
We had an excellent debate until the last 10 minutes. We had a tour around the north of England. We went to Cumbria, Hull, Cleethorpes and Durham, and we heard a lot about the A1, the A15, the A63 and even A roads that go through farmyards. We heard about ports and regional airports. As northern MPs, across parties, we are all ambitious for our region, and we want regional inequalities to be addressed by fair funding. We will not be going away. We will be holding this Government to account.
I am disappointed with the Minister’s response, because I think he read out a pre-prepared speech. He did not listen to what people were saying. With the greatest of respect, and as the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) said, it is typical of a southern Transport Minister to think that the problems of the north can be dealt with by HS2.
The Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), talked about the 120 days he has been waiting for a response from the Department to a letter signed by 10 MPs. The Department managed to get itself working very quickly this evening, because it has already been on the phone to The Yorkshire Post to complain that the newspaper has apparently put about the idea that the Secretary of State has snubbed this debate. It is important to note that this was a national issue; it was not about local transport. It is about a national issue and the Secretary of State’s comments over the summer.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered transport in the North.