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Midland Main Line Franchise

Volume 659: debated on Thursday 2 May 2019

4. Where the trains for the new franchise for midland main line will be made; and what the timetable is for the delivery of those trains. (910667)

Brand-new trains capable of operating under electric and diesel power will be introduced into service on the midland main line from 2022. I hope and expect the first train to be tested in 2021. I must leave the announcement on the manufacture of the new trains to the operator, but my hon. Friend knows that I have signalled on many occasions since becoming Secretary of State how committed I am to seeing more trains manufactured in the United Kingdom.

How many new trains and carriages will be produced, and how many current ones will be refurbished?

The inter-city fleet will be entirely new, which will be a great bonus to travellers on that route. We expect to see more seats and a brand-new fleet of trains, which is really important as we go through the biggest upgrade to the midland main line since the Victorian age. I cannot immediately recall the operator’s plans for the route from Kettering—serving the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone)—but they will no doubt set out the detail of those trains, which will be new commuter electric services down from those stations, for local Members shortly.

As the Secretary of State knows, we are a great manufacturing nation with the finest technology. Surely, after last night’s wonderful decision on climate change, we should think about how we can make more things in this country, without cheating the public. The Hitachi trains will not be made here, although they will be assembled here. When can we revive the train manufacturing sector in this country?

The more we build in this country, the more we invest in research and development. In the north-east, we are seeing more of Hitachi’s capabilities coming to the United Kingdom. The same applies to CAF in south Wales and, in particular, to the great success of Bombardier in Derby. Bombardier currently has a huge amount of work, and is delivering new trains throughout the network. However, I am with the hon. Gentleman: I want more to be done in the United Kingdom. As we move further into the 2020s, I am very committed to ensuring that as much as possible of the new rolling stock that we are expecting is built in the UK.

My question relates to fair and consistent treatment of bidders. Given that the Department has confirmed that all three bidders for the East Midlands franchise were non-compliant, why were only Stagecoach and Arriva disqualified from the competition?

Well, that is certainly not what the Secretary of State’s Department is saying. He withheld sensitive market information between 1 and 9 April when disqualifying Stagecoach from the South Eastern and West Coast Partnership competitions, thus demonstrating that his interference further discredits the franchising process. Have any of the bidders for the other rail franchise competitions submitted non-compliant bids, and have they been disqualified? If so, why has the information not been made public?

I am afraid that the hon. Lady’s question is based on a totally false premise. She is incorrectly accusing me of interference, and she is incorrectly making assertions about non-compliant bids that are simply inaccurate.