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Rail Investment in the North: Levelling Up

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 4 November 2021

2. What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of his policies on rail investment in the north of England on the Government’s levelling up agenda. (904014)

Building Northern Powerhouse Rail in full with a stop in Bradford city centre will help to transform Bradford’s economy and draw much-needed jobs and investment into the district, yet the Government are now believed to be scrapping the plans for NPR. Will the Minister give me some certainty today and either commit to the plan, or admit that the reality is that the Government have no intention of delivering real, transformative change to the economy and lives of people in West Yorkshire?

The hon. Gentleman will know that I know Bradford well, as I represent a constituency just down the road, on the sunny side of the hills. The Government are committed to supporting the aspirations of local leaders across West Yorkshire. We recognise that Bradford is an important economic centre in the north, with a growing and young population. We continue to look at the evidence for building a new station in Bradford, and decisions, as he knows, will be outlined in the integrated rail plan in due course.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the Salisbury train collision and I wish those who have sadly been injured a speedy recovery. We must, in the near future, get to the bottom of how such an incident could ever have occurred.

After the Budget, northern leaders were left even more bemused than before about Government plans for the north. There was no mention of Northern Powerhouse Rail and nothing more on HS2’s eastern leg or the midlands rail hub. There is still no rolling programme of electrification and no sign of the mythical integrated rail plan, which Ministers have kept referring me to for over a year. What a complete lack of ambition for the north. How did this happen? Was it because the Secretary of State could not convince the Chancellor to invest in our country’s railways, or was it because the Chancellor thought that giving tax cuts to already wealthy bankers was far more important?

Let us not pretend that we are not getting on with the job of investing in the north of England. We have invested £29 billion in northern transport since 2010, and in the Budget that the hon. Gentleman referred to, we announced over £1 billion for Greater Manchester, over £830 million for West Yorkshire and £570 million for South Yorkshire. I am delighted to say that the integrated rail plan is not just coming soon—it is now coming very soon.

When it comes to investment in the north, I welcome the recent investments in the feasibility work for Ferryhill station and the Weardale line. Of course, I am disappointed with what happened regarding the knock-back for the Leamside line, but I ask the Minister to work with us and the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) to look at funding streams and at potentially getting that into the integrated rail plan. Will he also assure the people of Ferryhill that knocking back the Leamside line does not in any way impact the Ferryhill project?

My hon. Friend continues to make a powerful case for his constituency and investment in local transport schemes. As he knows, I have family ties with Ferryhill—my father was born there—and I am very keen to support local people’s aspirations. I know that he has been lobbying the Secretary of State, the Rail Minister—my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris)—and myself on this issue. We will continue to work with him to see what we can do to support local aspirations.