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Regional Expenditure

Volume 632: debated on Thursday 30 November 2017

5. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the regional distribution of transport spending. (902659)

6. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the regional distribution of transport spending. (902660)

We recognise the importance of using infrastructure projects to support regional growth, which is why we are increasing Government infrastructure investment by 50% over the next four years. Such investment decisions are based on a fair and rigorous process that is designed to ensure that spending goes where it is most needed.

Will the Secretary of State put some power—some oomph—into the northern powerhouse, and pledge to get funding for passenger trains and platforms on to the existing Mid Cheshire rail link?

As somebody who used to live very close to the Mid Cheshire rail link—indeed, I used to go walking alongside it—I am well aware of its potential. I have asked Transport for the North, which is taking the lead on making recommendations about new projects, to do work on this for me, but I should say to the hon. Gentleman that I am extremely sympathetic to the idea of trains running again on that railway line.

Between 2011 and 2016, the average spending per head of the population on transport infrastructure in London was £725, but the similar figure for the north-east was £286. The investment in Tyne and Wear Metro, which is due in three or four years’ time, is very welcome, but we have a very long historical legacy of under-investment. Will the new formula do something about that historical legacy of under-investment?

To be honest, I am less concerned with formulae than with actually doing things. I am delighted that we are renewing the Metro trains, and I said yesterday that I am very keen to pursue the Blyth to Ashington extension to the Metro line. I am very keen to ensure that we continue to develop the road network in the north-east, which is why the opening of the first complete motorway link from London to Newcastle is so important, why we need to keep on improving the A1 north of Newcastle and why dualling the A66 is so important. This is about doing things, and that is what is actually happening right now.

Does the Secretary of State agree that doubling the line from Ely to Soham, as part of the Ely area improvement works, will bring significant benefits to the eastern region?

Absolutely. I regard this, along with the trans-Pennine upgrade, as one of the key priorities for the next railway investment control period. The Ely junction project will unlock freight and passenger capacity in a really important part of the country. Along with the investments we are putting in place elsewhere, it is a very important part of our strategy.

I thank the Secretary of State for his support in securing £79 million of funding for a new link road from St Austell to the A30 in my constituency, as confirmed in the Budget last week. Does he agree that this and other schemes, such as dualling the A30 and the new trains that are soon to arrive in Cornwall, clearly demonstrate this Government’s commitment to investing in transport infrastructure across the whole country?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments, and I am very pleased that we have got the go-ahead to deliver that road improvement for the people of Cornwall. It is really important for the regions of this country—whether the north-east or the south-west—and particularly areas that need to be given more infrastructure support so that their economies develop, to get the kind of investments that they are now getting, and we are very committed to going forward with that in the future.

17. Last week, the Chancellor announced an extension to youth railcards, but young people in my constituency have to take the bus to college, and the cheapest fare for a 17-year-old is £28 a week. Will the Secretary of State take some measures to help young people in the north as well as in the south? (902673)

Bus fares are something over which my Department has less control, particularly with the new franchising arrangements that are coming into place, but I will most certainly make sure that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport who is responsible for buses, my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), is aware of the hon. Lady’s concerns and that we respond to her.