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Rail Infrastructure

Volume 670: debated on Thursday 30 January 2020

8. What steps he is taking to improve rail infrastructure in (a) the Castlefield corridor and (b) West Yorkshire. (900508)

My Department is working closely with Network Rail, train operators and stakeholders to develop options for improving rail capacity and performance on the Castlefield corridor in Manchester. We completely understand that sorting out the capacity there is so important.

I thank the Minister for that answer. The national railway network barely grazes my constituency, and Metrolink avoids it altogether. Does he agree that an extension of Metrolink and the welcome reversals of the Beeching cuts will be an important part of levelling-up the forgotten towns in the north-west such as Heywood and Middleton?

I welcome my hon. Friend to his seat. As a strong representative of Heywood and Middleton, he will be pleased to hear that we are very supportive of measures to improve public transport in large urban areas such as Greater Manchester, which is why we have provided £312.5 million to the Mayor through the transforming cities fund and agreed, through the mayoral devolution deal, an earn-back mechanism that supported the construction of the latest Metrolink extension to Trafford. We will continue to do further work in that field and hopefully extend Metrolink towards my hon. Friend’s constituency.

From Castlefield to Castleford. In West Yorkshire we are grateful that the Government have finally sacked Northern Rail, but we do need investment in our northern infrastructure as well. Will the Minister push for the Department’s plans to include definitive plans for tackling disabled access? I have been raising for a long time the serious lack of disabled access at Pontefract Monkhill and Knottingley. It causes huge problems for parents with buggies, as well as for those in wheelchairs, and they cannot even get on the delayed or cancelled trains.

There is a fund for improving these things, but the right hon. Lady is absolutely right that accessibility on our railways is nowhere near as good as it should be in this day and age. We are trying to do much more with the train operating companies and Network Rail. I think she will be pleased to see what is said about accessibility in the Williams review White Paper when it comes forward.

If the Government were to scrap HS2, which everybody knows is a catastrophic waste of money, we would have a huge amount available for more rail infrastructure in West Yorkshire and across the north—we need better infrastructure in the north and across the north. Northern Powerhouse Rail, or HS3, is much more important to us than HS2. What is the Government’s intended timetable for the completion of Northern Powerhouse Rail? Can the Minister guarantee that Bradford will have a city-centre stop on that route?

The Government are spending a huge amount of money on improving the infrastructure in the north. My hon. Friend will see lots of improvements in the Bradford area and the area he represents. On HS2 and the various other bits of infrastructure, it is not an either/or: they are additional investments that we are making in infrastructure.