The Department’s call for evidence, issued on 7 February, seeks views on how we can seize the opportunities to build on the success of light rail. I am grateful for the response that the hon. Lady sent to the Department highlighting the potential merits of extending the Metro system to Washington, and we will ensure that her comments are taken into full consideration.
Residents of Washington often feel like the town is an island compared with neighbouring cities and towns. It contains 70,000 of my constituents, 70% of whom use their car to get to work. Does the Minister not agree that investment in transport infrastructure—such as the extension of the best light rail system in the north-east to Washington—would be the perfect way to encourage people out of their cars, reduce congestion, improve air quality and reduce the nation’s carbon footprint? What’s not to love?
As ever, the hon. Lady has made a strong case for the original Washington. We are keen supporters of this local transport system. We are investing £317 million in the Metro renewals and refurbishment programme and a further £337 million in renewing the fleet, as the Secretary of State said a moment ago.
I am aware that Nexus has identified a number of opportunities to expand the Metro network. It is up to Nexus to build a business case and to seek funding accordingly, but I support the hon. Lady’s basic argument, which is that transport investment is a driver of economic growth and environmental improvement. That is why we are investing so much in our networks across the country.