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Midland Main Line: Rolling Stock

Volume 639: debated on Thursday 19 April 2018

10. What the timetable is for new rolling stock for midland main line to (a) be delivered and (b) enter service. (904819)

The Secretary of State’s ambition is for bi-modes to begin operating on the midland main line from 2021. No firm decision has yet been taken on rail services in the next east midlands franchise, which, as the hon. Gentleman will know, starts in August 2019.

In the written statement that the Secretary of State made on 20 July, he promised, when cancelling electrification of the midland main line,

“a brand new fleet of bi-mode…trains from 2022”.—[Official Report, 20 July 2017; Vol. 627, c. 72WS.]

We seem to have gained a year somehow. The National Audit Office then said in a report from 29 March:

“In the case of Midland Main Line, bi-mode trains with the required speed and acceleration did not exist when the Secretary of State made his decision”,

and that the Department had informed him of that. I ask the Secretary of State or the Minister why the Secretary of State promised in his written statement to deliver bi-modal trains, which he knew not merely did not exist but had not even been developed. That is the situation. Why, at the time, did he not give the House the full facts instead of leading us to believe something that possibly was not true and was corrected only when the NAO produced its report?

Bi-mode trains capable of running at more than 120 mph in diesel mode are now in use on the Great Western main line. Bi-modes will soon be delivering better journeys on the east coast main line and transpennine routes as well.

I am sorry, but that answer simply will not do. In relation to the midland main line, the NAO report reveals that at the time when the decision was made, the Secretary of State knew that bi-mode trains had “a poorer investment case” than electrification and would be worse polluters—actually, 25 times worse for carbon emissions. He also knew that the rolling stock required for that line—this is the crucial point in relation to the Minister’s response—would not exist, yet none of that information was in his statement to the House cancelling electrification. Does the Minister not accept that those were serious omissions?

On the contrary, equivalent trains to the ones that will be in service were already operational. As I have just said, bi-mode trains that are capable of running at more than 120 mph in diesel mode are already now in use on the Great Western main line.