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Welsh Railway Network

Volume 656: debated on Thursday 21 March 2019

Network Rail’s proposed investment in the rail network in Wales during control period 6—between now and 2024—is £1.34 billion. That builds on the £900 million invested throughout control period 5 since 2014. That constitutes an increase of just under 50%. That investment will build a bigger, better railway for Wales.

Wales contains 11% of the UK railway network, but since 2010 it has received only 2% of the overall funding. Last year it received £177 million, while north-west London alone received £669 million. That is not acceptable. When will the Minister start investing in the Welsh railway network and end this chronic underfunding?

I am keen to see investment in the rail network throughout the United Kingdom. The budget for control period 6 is a record £48 billion, and, as I said a moment ago, the Wales budget for the next five years is £1.34 billion. That is just to tackle the infrastructure; we are also investing in tackling the new franchise—which is run by the Welsh Government—and in rolling stock.

Order. Although the hon. Gentleman represents Cleethorpes, which if memory serves me correctly is in north-east Lincolnshire, he is also a noted parliamentary celebrity in that he chairs the all-party group on rail and therefore we are interested in his thoughts on this matter.

Thank you for the introduction, Mr Speaker.

If my residents in Cleethorpes wanted to access the Welsh rail network, the first part of their journey would be to catch the TransPennine Express from Cleethorpes to Manchester and, if they did so, as they were leaving Cleethorpes station they would pass over Suggitts Lane level crossing, which as the Minister knows from his recent visit to my constituency is under threat of closure by Network Rail. Could he use his best endeavours to influence Network Rail to look at all other safety measures rather than closure?

I can see, Mr Speaker, why you referred to my hon. Friend as a parliamentary celebrity; that was properly ingenious. I will of course do all I can to help with the Suggitts Lane level crossing issue, and I much enjoyed my recent visit to his constituency and thank him for arranging the roundtable with local businesses.

Whether it is the line down to Wrexham or indeed the north Wales coast line, railways in Chester are hampered by the blockage that is the Hoole bridge in my constituency, which the Secretary of State knows about because he visited it during the 2017 general election. During the next control period, will Ministers make money available to improve and rebuild Hoole bridge?

I am not quite as familiar with the geography of the hon. Gentleman’s constituency as he is, so I will have to do some investigation work and then report back to him.

The welcome investment in the Halton curve has meant that train services from Liverpool to Wrexham will very shortly recommence for the first time on a direct service, but will the Minister investigate with the Welsh Assembly Government and the local authorities the possibility of extending that service up the north Wales coast to Flint and other stations in north Wales for tourism and business purposes?

I will certainly investigate the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman. The £16 million investment in the Halton curve has enabled that new hourly direct service between Lime Street and Chester, therefore making it easier for constituents he serves and others across north Wales to travel, so I will see what we can do to make that easier.