With permission, I will set out briefly to the House the plans for Christmas travel. A lot of families will be getting together for the first time, with a maximum of three households mixing. Christmas journeys are likely to be more difficult than usual this year as a result, and passengers will want to plan their journeys carefully.
To help passengers prepare for travel, we are putting in place a number of different plans, including clearing 778 miles-worth of roadworks; ensuring that 95% of the rail network will be unaffected by engineering works, either by postponing or altering them; lengthening trains and adding additional rail services; trebling the number of coach services available; ensuring that lateral flow testing is available at six different sites for transport workers to ensure that they are available and healthy to work; and many rail companies, including Avanti, LNER, CrossCountry, EMR and others, relaxing their peak fares. I have also appointed Sir Peter Hendy to look after this period of time, to ensure that people can travel as smoothly as possible while it will be exceptionally busy.
The funding announced in the spending review for a feasibility study on improving the South Fylde line was warmly welcomed by commuters in Blackpool. Creating a passing loop on the line will double the number of trains per hour into my constituency, helping to boost tourism and to deliver jobs and growth. Following the outcome of the next stage of the process, will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss taking the project forward to completion?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his relentless campaigning for things like the South Fylde loop. I, or my hon. Friend the Rail Minister, will be delighted to meet him to assist. We are putting in a lot of investment, including £10 million to tackle the Manchester bottleneck and, as the Minister with responsibility for the northern powerhouse, I intend to go much further.
We face a climate emergency and urgent action is clearly needed to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. That is why the Prime Minister promised to invest in 4,000 zero-emission buses. Given the seriousness of the issue and, indeed, the Prime Minister’s promise, why has the Government’s own spending review reduced the number of buses to which they are committed to just 500?
We are absolutely committed to introducing those 4,000 green buses. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that, because of the pandemic, a large part of the industry has had to come to a standstill while the passenger numbers have not been there. The money in the spending review is a welcome start on that programme. It does not in any way remove the intention to produce all 4,000 buses. To expand, we have to start somewhere, and that is what the new money will do.
We are investing record amounts in better battery technology, including the Faraday Centre research, for example, and money to build a gigafactory in this country—£1 billion, including cash to go towards that. I have met recently with all the manufacturers as well, and they are very much signed up to the Government’s new 10-point plan.
This Department is always happy to support development in Cumbria and was pleased last month to announce £12 million of funding for the A595 Grizebeck scheme. This is in addition to the £146 million announced at the spending review to accelerate vital dualling work on the A66, slashing construction time from 10 to five years, and I understand that a further business case is in development for the A595. I know that my ministerial colleagues in road and rail would be glad to meet Members to discuss a broader Cumbrian strategy.
I know just how difficult the traffic is at the Thrasher’s roundabout on Nacton Road and how hard my hon. Friend has campaigned on this. The pinch point fund or, more likely, the levelling-up fund, would be the way to proceed with this. That is the new £4 billion fund to resolve problems exactly like the Thrasher’s roundabout.
This bridge belongs to Hammersmith and Fulham Council. It is the council’s responsibility. Secondly, it is TfL’s responsibility. But the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: I had become fed up waiting for something to happen between the council and TfL, and when nothing was happening I wrote into the agreement with TfL for funding the other week that it must spend money both getting the ferry service going and starting the actual work. I am pleased to say that, despite the inactivity of his local authority, something is now happening thanks to our taskforce.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the case of Redcar train station. Stations such as Redcar are often at the heart of communities, and I encourage him to keep working, as he is, with the council and with industry to develop this idea. I would direct him to the new stations fund. We hope to open a new round of this within the next few months, and I am sure that the rail Minister would be pleased to meet him to discuss possibilities.
Yes, absolutely. It is crazy, the number of different cards people have to carry around and the membership schemes they have to join. It makes it very difficult. We have more charging locations than petrol stations, as I often say at this Dispatch Box, but people have to be able to drive up to any of them and use them. Contactless will be the way to do that, and we are acting on exactly that proposal.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important point. The Department recognises that warm mix asphalt may provide environmental benefits, through energy saving, lowered emissions and providing increased durability. Authorities should use what they think is best to ensure that their roads are maintained and safe, while also addressing climate commitments.
This issue is of enormous importance to all rural communities. I represent a rural area, so I understand the points my hon. Friend makes. The Government entirely understand the importance of sustainability of rural transport for communities across the UK. The national bus strategy we are developing will set out how national and local government, and the private sector, together, will meet the needs of these communities.
The Secretary of State may know that last month, unfortunately, the bridge in Hinckley won the accolade of the most bashed bridge in Britain, having been hit 25 times in a year. This causes a huge problem, with delays of more than six hours, on average. Colleagues and I have raised this issue, and we are pleased to have received £20 million in road investment strategy 2—RIS2—funding in March. What can he do to expedite the improvements on the A5, solve problems such as the bridge and make sure that we jolly well do not win that accolade next year?
I am sorry that my hon. Friend has the most bashed bridge in Britain, and the Government want to take that accolade away from him. That bridge at Hinckley has benefited from the £20 million that he mentions. The office of the traffic commissioner has also written to all goods vehicle and public service vehicle operators warning them of regulatory action that will be taken if they fail to stop bashing into the bridge. I can also assure him that Highways England is working on measures to reduce the number of strikes to the most bashed bridge in Britain.
The Clockfields estate in my constituency has long suffered from poorly maintained roads, owing to a complicated legal situation. Will my right hon. Friend join me in encouraging all parties involved to work harder and faster to bring a conclusion to this matter, which has caused my constituents to live with such poor road surfaces for so many years?
My hon. Friend is nodding her head. I have had a similar constituency experience of that, where roads for estates built 15 years ago still have not been adopted. I do think that it is an issue, and I undertake to work on this complex legal issue with my right hon. Friend the Housing Secretary, because it is a joint transport and housing problem, and I have seen how much difficulty it can create for all of our constituents.
Aylesbury has recently begun a trial of e-scooters, and I have been lucky enough to try one myself. However, at the same time that I was sticking to my cycle lane, others were trying to pull wheelies in the middle of the road, which is quite a feat, let me tell you. Will the Secretary of State consider requiring registration plates on all scooters, if legislation is introduced to permit them, so that irresponsible riders can be identified and punished?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right; while we are very keen to see the roll-out of e-scooters, and about 20 communities are already enjoying the benefits, it is also the case that we want to ensure that the regulation is right and that every single e-scooter is properly insured and built to the proper standards. That is why we are carrying out a very careful and cautious programme to roll them out, thanks to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), and we will be reporting back to the House what we learn from those trials and ensuring that the problems that my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) raises are not experienced elsewhere.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have had—not for the first time—a statement being offered during topical questions on a matter that should have been brought forward as a statement to allow proper scrutiny, in particular on the plan for Christmas. Although it nods to many proposals that Labour has put forward, we have not seen the detail and we have not been given the opportunity to scrutinise. May I have your advice, Mr Speaker? Is it not more appropriate for the Government to bring forward a statement that we can have a proper debate around?
On a point of order, Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) will be pleased to hear that I am writing in considerable detail to all Members of the House. The letter should be released, but I did not want to release until I had made comments about it at the Dispatch Box.