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Transport Funding: South-west

Volume 634: debated on Thursday 18 January 2018

Figures for transport spend in the south-west show a significant increase—part of a pattern, Mr Speaker—totalling £1.7 billion in 2016-17 alone. That spend is helping to deliver a package of investment worth over £2 billion on the strategic road network in the south-west, as well as investing more than £400 million in the rail network.

I very much welcome the commitment to funding for the notorious A358 in my constituency, and I am pleased that the Secretary of State and Highways England listened to local concerns and my calls for a new consultation, which opened just this week with three proposals. However, I would like an assurance that the upgrade will deliver not only strategically, but for local people and for productivity in Taunton.

This is an important matter. The A303 and the A358 are a crucial part of our investment programme in the west country, and they will open up a new corridor for people travelling down to the south-west, but they do have to work for my hon. Friend’s constituents and others in the region, particularly for the new employment area next to the motorway in her constituency. I assure her that I will continue to work with her to ensure that the projects delivers both for the region and nationally.

There is some evidence that trains from Paddington to Bristol and onwards are much better, less crowded and more reliable. However, people face delays and overcrowded and unreliable trains when getting from the south-west to the midlands. Will the Secretary of State put some funding into those lines?

I am aware of the particular congestion problems on the CrossCountry franchise. We will be re-letting the franchise shortly, and I want to see longer trains with more capacity for passengers. All of us who travel on CrossCountry trains from time to time know that they are too short for the loads they carry, and we need to find a way of sorting that out.

I echo the concerns about CrossCountry trains. Even outside of peak services, cramped trains are increasingly the norm for my constituents, who are jam-packed into vestibules, and that comes on top of delays and cancellations. Does my right hon. Friend agree that CrossCountry needs to raise its game?

I do agree. This is a question, as it is across the country, of ensuring that we have longer trains for the future. That is central to our strategy and is what the private sector is delivering for our railways, and it needs to happen on CrossCountry trains as well.

On funding, Cardiff Central station—the busiest in Wales—is in urgent need of redevelopment to accommodate expected passenger growth of 22 million in the next five years. This week, our Labour council and the Welsh Labour Government announced their funding contributions and the private sector funding, but the project can go ahead only if there is UK Government funding, too. When will the funding be confirmed?

The important thing about Cardiff Central station is that there is huge development taking place around the station. I have met the developers and local politicians, and I want to see there what I want in other parts of the rail network, which is a real integration of station development with commercial development. That should be an absolutely integral part of what is happening all around the station, not just in the station project in its own right, and that is what I want to happen.