Skip to main content

West Coast Main Line

Volume 639: debated on Thursday 19 April 2018

2. What his policy is on the operation of passenger services on the west coast main line after the completion of High Speed 2; and if he will make a statement. (904810)

As my hon. Friend knows, once High Speed 2 comes into operation it will move the express trains off the existing west coast main line and on to the new route. That will provide a great opportunity to improve services to intermediate stops such as Lichfield that do not have a good enough service at the moment.

I am slightly reassured by that answer. The Secretary of State talks about moving express trains off the west coast main line, but of course we currently have a very good Pendolino service and the slower West Midlands trains. Several hundred of my constituents commute to London every single day. What assurance can the Secretary of State give them that the Pendolino service—a fast, express service—will continue, and indeed that the Pendolinos will be replaced with equally fast trains when they come to the end of their life cycle?

The Pendolinos have many years to go, and I have no doubt that they will be replaced by a high-quality fast train in the future. My hon. Friend will have stood on the platform at Lichfield station and seen trains to Liverpool, Manchester and Scotland zooming past at high speed. The new plans will provide an opportunity for more trains to stop at Lichfield.

The Secretary of State knows well that I believe that HS2 is a vanity project that will never come to fruition. He knows that my constituents in the booming town of Huddersfield, which he visited recently, have access to the west coast line and the east coast line, but most of all they want a good trans-Pennine connection everywhere.

Absolutely, which is why I have already announced that the £2.9 billion upgrade of the trans-Pennine line will begin this time next year, as the start of a transformation that is vital to the north. In the coming months we will also see the arrival of the first of a complete new set of trains across the north of England that will transform passengers’ experience.

Previously I have raised concerns that, under the Department’s current proposals, high-speed classic-compatible trains will run slower north of Crewe than existing trains on the west coast main line just now. The Secretary of State said that we need to address that as we go through the 2020s. That is clearly not good enough. We need certainty now. If he will not commit to upgrading the west coast main line north of Crewe, will he look into procuring trains that can tilt and travel on the high-speed network?

The new classic-compatible trains and the arrival of HS2 up to the north-west of England will of course mean more speedy journey times to Scotland. I know the hon. Gentleman’s party’s view. We want to see further improvements through the 2020s to the west coast main line north of Crewe to ensure that we improve journey times. We want the best possible journey times across the whole network, and will continue to work for that.