We are investing in the biggest upgrade of the midland main line since it was completed in 1870. The upgrade will reduce journey times between Nottingham and Sheffield and London by up to 20 minutes in the peak once it is complete.
I thank the Minister for that response, but it misses the immediate point. The May timetable changes mean that we have no direct rail services from London to Sheffield between the peak afternoon hours of 16.47 and 18.02, where previously there were three. These services have been sacrificed to improve Govia Thameslink services for London and the south-east. Does the Minister think that that is acceptable? If not, what is he going to do about it?
We recognise the challenges of integrating the £7 billion Thameslink programme with the ambitious upgrade of the midland main line costing over £1 billion. That did require hard choices regarding the rationalisation of services, but the situation will be resolved from 2020 onwards with the completion of the upgrade of the midland main line, which will add capacity to the route.
All the trains from London to Sheffield have to go through Kettering, but sadly not enough of them stop at Kettering. We used to have a half-hourly service northbound from Kettering, but the last Labour Government cut that to one an hour. Will the rail Minister reinstate the half-hourly service?
In the consultation on the next east midlands franchise, we have proposed that the extra capacity to be delivered on the midland main line is used to provide 50% more seats in the peak on the fast direct service between Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford, Luton, Luton Airport Parkway and London St Pancras. This will mean longer, quieter, more comfortable and more efficient trains.
It costs over £150 a month to commute to Leeds and Sheffield from Barnsley, yet the trains—which belong in museums—are often delayed and packed to a dangerous capacity. When will the Government get a grip and invest in northern transport?
We are investing in new rolling stock, not just across the north of England with all trains there being either replaced or fully refurbished, but also on the midland main line, where new trains will be coming in from 2022 onwards. These will be efficient, environmentally friendly, bi-mode trains of the most innovative kind anywhere in Europe.