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Rail Services: North of England

Volume 680: debated on Thursday 17 September 2020

I recently announced a £600 million package for the rail network across the north, including £589 million to upgrade and electrify the trans-Pennine route, which is part of a multibillion-pound programme for High Speed North.

On Sunday, the new 195 trains finally started running on the Hope Valley line, which runs between Manchester and Sheffield and serves New Mills, Chinley, Edale, Hope and Bamford in my constituency. While that is welcome news and something I have long campaigned for, services are still not frequent enough or reliable enough. To solve that, we need to increase capacity. May I urge the Secretary of State to invest more in this often-overlooked part of the northern powerhouse and finally upgrade the Hope Valley line?

My hon. Friend is right to campaign for that. I am a great fan of the Hope Valley line. I cannot make an announcement about it today, but as he is aware, Ministers are investigating the possibilities to enhance capacity, and I do not think he will have to wait too long.

As more people return to work using our great northern railway and the southern railway, what steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that the railway network and public transport is safe for increased passenger numbers?

As my hon. Friend knows, we took over the running of Northern earlier in the year because we were so dissatisfied by the progress, and it was then hit by covid, but I can report to the House some numbers that might be helpful. Some 62% of workers across the country are now going back to work. That is the highest level since the crisis began. In particular, the figure for last week—the week commencing 7 September—was 42% back on our national rail services. Northern is doing a great deal of work to make its services ready for people coming back.