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Rail Electrification

Volume 632: debated on Thursday 30 November 2017

The Government are committed to ensuring that our continued levels of record investment best address the needs of passengers and freight. Passengers expect high-quality rail services, and we are committed to electrification where it delivers genuine benefits to passengers and value for money for the taxpayer.

No rail system can be called high speed unless it is electric. After blocking Hull’s privately financed rail electrification scheme a year ago, yesterday, the Transport Secretary told the House—I am sure he will recall this—that the Liverpool to Hull Crossrail for the north would happen in parallel with the Surrey to Hertfordshire Crossrail 2. Will both lines be electrified, just as Crossrail 1 is electric?

At a time when we are seeing technology move very fast, people have to get away from a set focus on an individual form of motor power. Not every 125 mph train has to be powered by a particular power source. In the coming years we will see more development of bi-mode technology, battery technology and hydrogen technology. We will use the systems that make the most difference to the passenger the most cost-effectively.

Despite the creaking electrification infrastructure on the east coast, the 43-page “Connecting People” was jammed with funding reannouncements, possible reopenings, readjusted delivery dates, delayed promises and a lot of words to try to hide what we all now know was the central purpose—to conceal the deal on the failed Stagecoach franchise.

The new partnership that passengers want is their trains to arrive on time, so when will we see the upgrade to the electrification works needed on the east coast?

As I said earlier, the key point is that the next investment control period contains a programme of continued upgrade and investment for the east coast main line, to go along with the arrival of a new generation of smart, new, effective, passenger-friendly trains. All of that will happen so that we deliver those improvements and passenger services. Having heard the shadow Secretary of State’s questions earlier, I think that he has not understood that this will be a completely fresh partnership with potentially new partners and a new way forward, delivering better services for passengers in a more joined up way.

More structural changes, but the electrification wait continues. Let us look at these new rail partnerships. They are moving a public service to the control of private companies. This is not devolution to the rail authorities or to the people, it is devolution to the shareholders; it is further fragmentation and privatisation of the railway, failed operators now being handed the tracks as well as the trains, and nothing to address the electrification upgrade.

Is it to recoup these costs that the ticket prices will be soaring by 32% since 2010 after Christmas?

Two points: Labour Members should remember how much fares rose when they were in power; and they might like to explain why their friends in the unions have in their training manuals a requirement for negotiation for RPI increases in the future. Why is that? Why do they not tell their union friends to change their ways of operation?