With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the future of the railway.
Today I am proud to announce our integrated rail plan. It is a £96 billion programme that will transform rail services in the north and the midlands—the largest single rail investment ever made by a UK Government, and an investment that, rather than being felt decades into the future, will arrive much, much sooner. This unprecedented commitment to build a world-class railway that delivers for passengers and freight, for towns and cities, and for communities and businesses, will benefit eight of the 10 busiest rail corridors across the north and the midlands, providing faster journeys, increased capacity and more frequent services up to 10 years sooner than previously planned.
When I became Transport Secretary in 2019, the HS2 project was already about 10 years old. I was concerned that costs were rising and newer projects such as the midlands rail hub and Northern Powerhouse Rail had not been fully factored into the plans. Under the original scheme, the HS2 track would not have reached the east midlands and the north until the early 2040s. Clearly, a rethink was needed to ensure that the project would deliver as soon as possible for the regions that it served, and that is how the integrated rail plan was born—through a desire to deliver sooner.
The Prime Minister and I asked Douglas Oakervee to lead the work and make recommendations on the best way forward. One of his key criticisms was that HS2 was designed in isolation from the rest of the transport network. The original plans gave us high-speed lines to the east midlands, but did not serve any of the three biggest east midlands cities. For example, if someone wanted to get to Nottingham or Derby, they would still have had to go to a parkway station, and change on to a local tram or train. Oakervee made a clear and convincing case for considering HS2 as part of an integrated rail plan, working alongside local, regional and national services, not just those travelling between our biggest cities. We accepted those recommendations and asked the National Infrastructure Commission to develop options.
The commission came back with two key suggestions: first, that we adopt a flexible approach, initially setting out a core integrated rail network, but that we remain open to future additions as long as expectations on costs and timing are met; and secondly, that strengthening regional rail links would be most economically beneficial for the north and midlands—connecting towns with the main railway networks, and bringing hope and opportunity to communities that have felt left behind for too long—and that we should bring these benefits to passengers and local economies as soon as possible. Those are the guiding principles behind the integrated rail plan that I am announcing today. It is an ambitious and unparalleled programme that not only overhauls intercity links across the north and midlands, but speeds up the benefits for local areas and serves the destinations that people most want to reach.
This new blueprint delivers three high-speed lines: first, Crewe to Manchester; secondly, Birmingham to the east midlands, with HS2 trains continuing to central Nottingham, central Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield on an upgraded main line; and thirdly, a brand new high-speed line from Warrington to Manchester and the western border of Yorkshire, slashing journey times across the north. [Laughter.] Well, I know that Opposition Members will want to hear the detail of those journey times and also to explain why their constituents would wish to wait decades more to deliver a journey almost no faster at all than under these plans.
I have heard some people say that we are just going about electrifying the TransPennine route. That is wrong. We are actually investing £23 billion to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail and the TransPennine route upgrade, unlocking east-west travel across the north of England. In total, this package is 110 miles of new high-speed line, all of it in the midlands and the north. It is 180 miles of newly electrified line, all of it in the midlands and the north. I remind the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) of Labour’s 63 miles of electrified line in 13 years. We will upgrade the east coast main line with a package of investment on track improvements and digital signalling, bringing down journey times between London, Leeds, Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh, and bringing benefits to the north-east much, much sooner than under the previous plans. This adds capacity and speeds up services over more than 400 miles of line, the vast majority of it in the midlands and the north. We will study how best to take HS2 trains to Leeds as well. We will start work on a new West Yorkshire mass transit system, righting the wrong of that major city not having a mass transit system, probably the largest in Europe not to have one. We commit today to supporting West Yorkshire Combined Authority over the long term to ensure that this time it actually gets done.
In short, we are about to embark on the biggest single act of levelling up of any Government in history. [Interruption.] Listen to the numbers. It is five times more than what was spent on Crossrail and 10 times more than what was spent on delivering the Olympics, but Opposition Members still think it is a small package. It will achieve the same, similar or faster journey times to London and on the core Northern Powerhouse Rail network than the original proposals, and will bring the benefits years earlier, as well as doubling, or in some cases tripling, the capacity.
Let me set out a few of these investments. Rail journeys between Birmingham and Nottingham will be cut from an hour and a quarter to 26 minutes, city centre to city centre. Journeys between York and Manchester will be down to 55 minutes, from 83 minutes today. Commuters will be able to get from Bradford to Leeds in just 12 minutes, almost half the time it takes today. There will be earlier benefits for places such as Sheffield and Chesterfield. Trips from Newcastle to Birmingham will be slashed by almost 30 minutes, and passengers in Durham and Darlington will benefit from smoother, more reliable trains. The IRP delivers not just for our largest cities but for smaller places and towns. For example, Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough, Grantham, Newark, Retford, Doncaster, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Stalybridge could all see improvements, electrification or faster services, benefiting in ways they would not have done under the original HS2 programme.
We are not stopping there. Today’s plan is about those places that connect and interact with HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail and the scale of ambition, with many of these projects lying outside the scope. Only yesterday, I opened the first reversal of the Beeching axe. We will be doing the same in Northumberland for the Ashington-Blyth-Newcastle line and many others. We are investing £2 billion in cycling and walking, £3 billion in turn-up-and-go bus services, and tens of billions in our country’s roads. After decades of decline, with constrained capacity and poor reliability, this plan will finally give passengers in the north and the midlands the services they need and deserve.
It is not just about infrastructure; we are going to make train travel much easier as well. Today I can confirm £360 million to reform fares and ticketing, with the roll-out of contactless pay-as-you-go ticketing for 700 urban stations, including 400 in the north.
This is a landmark plan, by far the biggest of any network improvement and focused on the north and the midlands. With more seats, more frequent services, and shorter journeys, it meets the needs of today’s passengers and future generations. We are getting started immediately with another £625 million for electrification between Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, bringing the total on the TransPennine route upgrade to £2 billion and counting, and £249 million to further electrify the midland main line between Kettering and Market Harborough, with work starting on the integrated rail plan by Christmas.
Communities of every size will benefit, right across the north and midlands, in many cases years earlier than planned. By taking a fresh look at HS2, and how it fits with the rest of the rail system, we will be able to build a much-improved railway that will provide similar or better services to almost every destination than the outdated vision drawn up for HS2 over a decade ago. This plan will bring the north and midlands closer together, fire up economies to rival London and the south-east, rebalance our economic geography, spread opportunity, level up the country and bring benefits at least a decade or more earlier. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. We will be going out shortly to collect the plan and scrutinise it. I am frankly staggered by how this statement started, with the Secretary of State saying he was “proud” to present it to the House—proud of what? Is he proud of the betrayal of trust, the betrayal of promises and the betrayal of the investment that the north of England and the midlands deserve?
We have all seen the reports over the weekend, each one setting out the betrayal being put forward today. There is no amount of gloss or spin that can be put on it. The Secretary of State promised HS2 to Leeds. He promised Northern Powerhouse Rail. He promised that the north would not be forgotten, but he has not just forgotten us; he has completely sold us out.
As someone who lives in Greater Manchester, I am not going to take lectures on what Northern Powerhouse Rail means. We know exactly what it means. We were committing to a new line connecting Manchester and Leeds, and within a month of becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said:
“I am going to deliver on my commitment with a pledge to fund the Leeds to Manchester route.”
We were promised a new line. He has broken that promise, and he has not even got the decency to admit it.
Let us be clear: the scaling back of Northern Powerhouse Rail, coupled with the scrapping of the eastern leg of HS2, is a massive blow for our regions. The schemes would have created 150,000 new jobs, connecting 13 million people in our major towns and cities in our industrial heartlands. The then-Chancellor George Osborne first announced plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail in 2014. Since then, the Conservatives, including the Prime Minister and the Transport Secretary, have recommitted and re-promised 60 times.
This is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform opportunity across the whole country, to rebalance the economy and make it work for working people, but that opportunity now looks set to be lost. They are the very same working people who will likely face a record increase when rail fares go up next year. They will be paying 50% more to get to work than they did a decade ago, relying on a crumbling, unreliable and overcrowded system that prioritises profit above passengers. It is the same with buses, with fares up 70%, use down and not a single one of the 4,000 zero-emission buses promised by the Prime Minister three years ago having been delivered.
What is on offer? Some £96 billion that we should be grateful for, but let us unpack that £96 billion, £40 billion of which has already been committed from London to Crewe, but is being labelled as investment across the north of England. Of the £56 billion that remains, if we compare that with what the north of England would have got over the past decade had it had the same investment as London and the south-east, we are still £10 billion short. We are not going to accept crumbs off the table.
Labour would reform our transport networks so that they work for working people, with investment spread more evenly across the country so that parents are not forced to see their children leave the places where they were raised to find opportunity that is denied on their doorstep. Most importantly, Labour would put working people first, using the power of Government and the skill of business to ensure good-quality jobs are created here and in every single region of Britain.
The Prime Minister was elected on a promise to level the playing field and make things better for households across the country. We were promised a northern powerhouse. We were promised a midlands engine. We were promised that we would be levelled up, but what we have been given today is the great train robbery—robbing the north of its chance to realise its full potential, robbing the next generation of the hope and opportunity they are due and robbing 15 million people across the north of the investment they have been denied for 11 years under this rotten Government.
I just want to make sure I understand the hon. Gentleman’s approach—his lines, as it were. This is £96 billion of expenditure, the single biggest investment ever. We have made no secret of the fact that some of that money is already the Birmingham to Crewe line, the Crewe to Manchester line; last time I checked, that benefits the midlands and north, does it not? That does help.
I realise the hon. Gentleman either wrote his response before hearing what was in the statement, or decided to ignore it, because this is a brand-new high-speed line—I just want to check the geography—from Warrington to Manchester to Marsden in the west of Yorkshire. To judge by his response, he does not think that exists.
What confuses me the most overall is that the Leader of the Opposition seems to be in a completely separate place. He said:
“I oppose HS2 on cost and on merit: it will not achieve its stated objectives.”—[Official Report, 15 September 2015; Vol. 599, c. 1006.]
So he opposes HS2. For transparency, he said that in 2015. What has he said more recently?
“The government should take this opportunity to cancel HS2”.
That is the Leader of the Opposition speaking. Before the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) gets carried away, why does he not have a word with the leader of his party and work out whether they agree on his position?
This is an enormous investment. It will create three new high-speed lines. It electrifies track; just today, nearly 400 miles of track electrification was announced within these programmes. What a contrast with the 63 miles of track the Labour Government managed to electrify in 13 years in office.
I will finish by talking about the importance of the overall transport approach. This is not just about rail, as the hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out, but about other means of getting around. We cannot get around without a roads programme, and we have a £20 billion-plus road building programme. Labour opposes it. They do not want to build any roads, so I am not sure where he wants to run those buses he keeps talking about.
I have already written to the hon. Gentleman, and I think I am right in saying I sent the letter to the Library of the House, because he will continue to go around saying that of these 4,000 buses, none are on the road. That is factually untrue. I have written to him with the detail: 900 of those buses are ordered, many of them already on the road. I know it is the Opposition’s job to oppose, but if he is already opposing his own leader, no wonder they do not have a cohesive transport policy.
The Prime Minister promised that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail were not an either/or option. Those in Leeds and Bradford might be forgiven for viewing it today as neither. That is the danger in selling perpetual sunlight and leaving it for others to explain the arrival of moonlight. On a stand-alone basis, this plan comprises some fantastic projects that will slash journey times and better connect our great northern cities, and for that the Transport team deserve much credit. My question is this: it costs us in this country £2 million to deliver a single kilometre of electrified track. The Germans can do that for less than £500,000 because they have a rolling programme of electrification. What steps has the Secretary of State taken to ensure that this new plan can be delivered to time and to this cost?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the improvements in journey times. For example, on Bradford, which has been talked about a great deal, it will be 12 minutes from Bradford to Leeds. What we called for, and what everyone was calling for, is London or south-east-style connectivity, and 12 minutes between two of the north’s great cities as a result of this plan is one of those potential upgrades—not potential; it is one of the upgrades in the plan.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the cost of electrification. A lot of these things seem to cost a lot more in this country. The rail Minister—the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris)—is carrying out an electrification challenge to bring the sector in and challenging it to build on electrification much faster than currently happens. Of course, in addition to electrification, we also have zero-carbon trains, electric trains and hydrogen trains such as the HydroFLEX, which will help to resolve some of the more difficult-to-electrify areas, although, as I say, we have full fat electrification on nearly 400 miles of line as a result of today’s plan.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement, although I did read most of it in a newspaper beforehand.
I do admire the Secretary of State’s hutzpah for the most bullish U-turn I have yet seen in this place. He talks of Beeching reversal; this is nothing but an HS2 reversal. Bit by bit, HS2 and its grand vision for a rail network that might actually belong in the 21st century rather than in the 19th century is being salami-sliced until all that is left is a Birmingham to London shuttle with a few token services to Manchester, benefiting few, but costing us all.
Perhaps the Secretary of State should ask for some tips from the French Government, whose high-speed rail network is now 2,800 km long, or from the Germans, who have over 3,000 km. Denmark is building high-speed rail to link with Germany’s network, including an 11-mile tunnel under the Baltic sea. Meanwhile, the UK cannot even manage linking itself.
On electrification, the 2015 manifesto promised electrification to Windermere, south Wales and the midlands, and they were ditched, so forgive me if we are sceptical about today’s promises not meeting the same fate. For a country that started the railway age and produced Brunel, Stephenson and Joseph Locke, England is now badly served by its transport leadership—a leadership that no number of glossy reports and reviews can paper over.
Can I ask the Secretary of State what implications this will have for Barnett consequentials for both Wales and Scotland? Will Wales now receive its fair share of funding if HS2 money is being redeployed elsewhere? Can he confirm that Barnett will also apply to Scotland’s funding? Given that the Scottish Government are miles ahead of the UK on decarbonisation, electrification and active travel, at least we know something useful will be done with that cash.
Perhaps it is time that levelling up applied to the DFT. Move the Department up to Newcastle, Carlisle or Doncaster, and quickly find out at what level the rest of England operates when given a shoestring to run a public transport network that is in the 21st century in theory only. Experiencing the third class network the north of England is expected to endure every day as compared with that in Greater London might sharpen a few minds in the DFT as to where their priorities lie in the future.
As the hon. Member knows, the Treasury is going to Darlington and the DFT has actually gone to Leeds and Birmingham. We already have 70 staff up at our Leeds office, and they will be delighted to be able to travel around much faster as a result of this plan today.
I should mention that the plan involves £12.8 billion of upgrade of the eastern core. This is upgrading the east coast main line, digital signalling and the like. We are not near capacity on those routes yet. The £12.8 billion will help with the journey up the east coast. Of course, the plan today also confirms the west coast update—the HS2 part of it rather—meaning that journeys to Scotland will be a great deal faster as a result. There are lots of benefits, when it comes to Scotland, from bringing these journey times way down as a result of this investment in HS2, and this plan today delivers on that.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, which I think is a good balance between what was hoped for and what can actually be achieved. I am sure it was an oversight that he did not mention Cleethorpes in his statement. Can he assure me that the restored direct link between Cleethorpes and King’s Cross, which is in the London North Eastern Railway draft timetable, will indeed begin, I hope next year, but certainly by 2023? Can he also assure me that the east-west freight corridor from the Humber ports is still a priority?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I missed that out in my foreword and I apologise—Cleethorpes should certainly get a mention. I am working with my hon. Friend the Minister of State (Chris Heaton-Harris) on a potential direct service from Cleethorpes to London. Just a week or two ago I visited the ports, and I know the importance of connectivity with those ports.
The Prime Minister repeatedly promised that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail would be built in full. Today that promise has been broken, and Leeds and the north have been betrayed. Can the Minister explain—this is insofar as I understand the details; I have yet to read the full report—the logic of taking HS2 from Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway, building a new high-speed line from Leeds to Sheffield, but leaving a huge great big hole in the middle, which would have Victorian railway engineers scratching their heads in disbelief, to save what The Times says is £10.3 billion? What is the purpose of doing that?
I think I can reassure the right hon. Gentleman. One of the purposes of Northern Powerhouse Rail, which we are delivering, is to slash journey times, for example from Leeds to Manchester, and we will deliver exactly that. We will provide a journey time of 33 minutes from Leeds to Manchester, which he will know is a very significant improvement. That is not the only thing. We will also cut the journey time from Leeds to London to one hour 53 minutes, and to Birmingham it will be an hour and a half. All those journey times will be coming down dramatically because of the steps we are taking today. We have also announced £100 million to look at the best way to run HS2 trains into Leeds, as well as to sort out the long-term problem that Leeds does not have a mass transport system—I think it is the biggest city in Europe without one. We know there have been many attempts at that over the years, but this time we intend to ensure it is followed through. There is a lot for Leeds in this package, which includes, as it happens, getting Northern Powerhouse Rail to run to Leeds, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman’s constituents will feel the benefits of that.
The creation of economic prosperity across Keighley and the whole Bradford district is something I care deeply about, and it is linked to the creation of better transport connectivity. I am deeply disappointed by today’s announcement, and in my view, the Bradford district has been completely short changed. We are one of the most socially deprived parts of the UK, and we must get better transport connectivity. I still want Northern Powerhouse Rail to be delivered with a main stop in Bradford, so that we can unlock our economic opportunities. Will my right hon. Friend explain to the House what the Government are doing to deliver better, more reliable, and cheaper rail services for my constituents in Keighley?
Let me make sure that my hon. Friend understands and appreciates the full relevance of today: a 12-minute journey from Bradford to Leeds, which is nearly half the current journey time; at least 30 minutes off the Bradford to London journey, after the upgrades are complete. There were other plans, which were not at all fleshed out—I know Transport for the North and others had talked about building all sorts of different versions of this, and one version was indeed the TransPennine route upgrade. However, there was a problem with those other plans: I mean no disrespect to my hon. Friend, but he may well not be an MP in 2043—perhaps he will be—to see those things delivered. The advantages I am talking about such as the 12-minute journey, and 30 minutes off the journey from Bradford to London, will be delivered in his first couple of terms as a Member of Parliament.
The Secretary of State knows fine well that the promised integrated infrastructure investment is about capacity as much as travel times. The Government are just not being straight, as they are asking northerners to put up with make do and mend, rather than the infrastructure we were promised. Is that because they continue to see the north as a problem to solve, rather than an opportunity to invest in? Is this not just another broken promise from this Prime Minister and Chancellor, who have seemingly cancelled levelling up because there are Tories on the line? It appears that the Prime Minister is once again driving a train into the ditch and off the track on his way to the north.
Listening to the hon. Lady, one would think I had just come to the Dispatch Box to announce that Newcastle will have a longer journey time to London. The answer is exactly the opposite. As a result of the plans I am announcing today, the journey from Newcastle to London will be 21 minutes shorter. One would have thought she would be standing up and welcoming today’s massive investment in the train services that will benefit her constituents. Even if she does not appreciate it, I rather suspect her constituents will.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and I look forward to reading the detail of the plan. He has given us a complex statement, because there are many changes to existing plans, but it is absolutely clear that no Government have ever invested on this scale in British history. He should not take any lessons from the Labour party, which did nothing on the issue. Will he provide a bit more detail on the timescales for delivery? Specifically, when will people in Yorkshire be able to take advantage of the enhanced services he is talking about? Can he comment a little further on the environmental benefits? I am thinking particularly about the improved clearances for rail freight.
On the environmental advantages, it will interest the House to know that HS2 is being built in as an environmentally friendly a way as possible. Section 2B west is intended to be a net positive carbon contribution, not just in its running but in its entire life cycle, which will be very important.[Official Report, 23 November 2021, Vol. 704, c. 4MC.] I refer the House and my hon. Friend to pages 134 and 135, which contain the full timescale for when the various different benefits will arrive at different locations. In every case, the advantages will start arriving much, much sooner than under the original plans. All the people who say we should have just carried on ploughing on with the original HS2 plan need to explain why it was right to wait until the 2040s for their constituents to feel the benefits. This way, the benefits will start to be felt by this Christmas, when work gets under way on the midland main line and from work already under way on the TransPennine route.
I want to follow up on the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). I want to understand the new east-west division that the Secretary of State has set out today. As I understand it, our constituents moving from Leeds to Manchester will travel by high-speed train south of Leeds, then change trains to get a train to Nottingham Parkway, and then get on a new high-speed train from Nottingham Parkway to Birmingham. I think that is what the Secretary of State set out. Since we approved this plan in Cabinet, China has built 23,500 miles of high-speed line. This Tory Government have built none. We have had a review every year and the Secretary of State has just destroyed the plans. Hundreds of millions of pounds in Birmingham is predicated on being at the heart of a network, not a mish-mash. How can we now believe the plan he has set out?
I should point out that China does not have the same health and safety approach as us. It has a slightly different view of how many people it is acceptable to kill per mile of track laid, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is seriously considering we go down that route. I know that he represents a Birmingham constituency and I know that the Mayor of the West Midlands has broadly welcomed this package. Birmingham does very well out of it. The connection that was not initially envisaged in the HS2 plan, between the biggest cities in the midlands, such as Birmingham and Nottingham, will now be complete with not just a parkway station, but with stations into the city centres of Nottingham and Derby connecting Birmingham. That will be fantastic news for his constituents. He asked about trains. No, people will not be changing trains. They will be on the same train all the way through.
I did not hear the Secretary of State mention the stretch between Birmingham and Crewe, which cuts straight through my constituency from top to bottom, causing massive misery to my constituents. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that discussions have taken place to improve the situation? Will he and the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson) commit to continuing to listen to the proposed solutions, which would mitigate the misery and help to solve the problems faced by my constituents?
It is absolutely right that HS2 has had a big impact on a lot of communities, or it does as it is built, and there are different advantages in different places for Members and their constituents. I am delighted to assure my hon. Friend that he can continue to work with the HS2 Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson), who has done wonders to improve the relationship with the communities to try to bring benefits—even where there are not necessarily stops—to communities along the HS2 line through some of the community funds and other things. I will recommit to that for my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) today.
It was five years ago on Tuesday that Tory Ministers blocked the privately financed rail electrification to Hull, and there was not one mention today of the great city of the north, Hull, and the economically important area of the Humber. Will the Secretary of State explain why passengers in Hull, who pay more for their train tickets and get a poorer service, will now have to wait even longer? I cannot see anything in the detail to show that the Prime Minister is delivering on his promise for Northern Powerhouse Rail. In the Hull and the Humber area, levelling up means absolutely nothing.
The right hon. Lady would be right if it did not matter to her constituents, for example, to be able to travel to Manchester 30 minutes faster than they can at the moment—[Interruption.] Yes, from Hull to Manchester, it will be 30 minutes faster than it is at the moment. If it did not matter to them to be able to travel quickly and efficiently down the east coast main line, I suppose she would be right, but the reality is that this plan actually delivers all those things. It would be a lot less disingenuous for her to come to the House and welcome these huge improvements, with journey times 30 minutes faster to Manchester and much faster to London, and potentially with more trains per hour because of the increased capacity. I would have thought that she would welcome those things.
My hon. Friend has been an incredible advocate for Toton and the surrounding area. Today is really a triumph for him, because not only will we ensure that we connect up the major cities—so, Birmingham to Nottingham—but we have committed to Toton to ensure that the brand-new development also gets development funding, which will be matched by the private sector, in order to develop a station that allows Toton to fulfil the role for which he has campaigned so assiduously. Toton is very much in the plan today and I think that he will be delighted with what he reads.
The Secretary of State has done an extraordinarily good job of presenting what No. 10 is briefing to the press is an £18 billion reduction in the rail investment programme. That is the truth. He has also not told the House that the plan involves getting rid of the tunnels that take HS2 through Manchester to a low-level station at Manchester Piccadilly. Will he do an assessment of the impact that putting HS2 on stilts through Manchester will have on potential regeneration? HS2 will bring regeneration, but if we put it in the air like that, it is most likely to sterilise the areas on either side. He would not have put Crossrail on stilts in Greater London.
It is worth explaining to the House that the tunnels will bring HS2 into Manchester; it will not be on stilts coming in. I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring specifically to the station element, which has been studied and re-studied many different times. Of course, we can only spend the same money once and we need to spend it as wisely as possible. If we spend £6 billion or £7 billion building the station underground at Manchester, we will take away from Liverpool, Leeds, Hull or some of the other places that are calling for money. He rightly points out that for the difference of four minutes in the journey from Manchester to Leeds, for example, the cost will be £18 billion less, but that does not take away from the fact that in today’s announcement there is £23 billion for Northern Powerhouse Rail, including new high-speed lines from Warrington to West Yorkshire and all the huge upgrades that we have been describing. Manchester is a principal beneficiary of this entire programme and we wish his constituents well in their new journey times.
I welcome the announcement and particularly the improved speed of delivery. Once in a generation would be good; I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore) will be here in 2043, but I will be 83 years old, so I do not want it to take that long.
I really encourage as much UK provision into the supply line as possible. I will be leaving the House later today to zoom back up to Sedgefield on a train built in Newton Aycliffe; I hope we see many more of those. On supply, there is a bit of uncertainty among residents about the impact on things like the Restoring Your Railway programme at places such as Ferryhill. We need to make sure that that proceeds, but it is also important that we head north. What opportunities will come for the Leamside line to deliver north for Sedgefield?
It is worth saying that 97% of HS2 companies are UK-registered. More than 2,000 businesses are involved in the delivery; as my hon. Friend knows, many are bidding for things like the train delivery. There will be further announcements on that side of things soon.
On improvements, I know that Darlington has had capacity constraints—I have been to see them for myself—that will be massively improved as a result of our plans. All in all, it is very good news for my hon. Friend’s constituents in Sedgefield.
I have to say that the Secretary of State’s upbeat statement does not really chime with reality. It represents missed opportunities for the people and businesses of Bradford. The short-sighted decision puts at risk the more than £30 billion in economic benefits that would have flowed from a full NPR with a city centre train stop for Bradford. The disparity in the statement is huge: it is big on rhetoric and short on delivery. Just how long has it been known that the promises on HS2 and NPR would be broken, letting down the people of Bradford and the people of the north?
For the hon. Lady’s constituents who want to travel to Leeds, I think the journey at the moment is 20 to 22 minutes. The good news is that after today’s announcement, it will take 12 minutes. That will bring real connectivity between two great northern cities, which is incredibly important.
It is also important to say that the Government have always said that we will look at the best ways to improve efficiency and reliability. Should the hon. Lady’s constituents need to travel down to London, as she does, I am pleased to say that once work has been completed, they will be able to get here 30 minutes faster. Again, that is a very significant delivery. As we have been saying, these things will not happen in decades’ time, in the 2040s; they will be happening this decade. That is incredibly important as well.
I believe that this is a plan that will deliver for the hon. Lady’s constituents in Bradford. Of course, there are always more things and there is always the future. It is important that people know the current plans so that they can plan for those things. Right now, the connectivity between Bradford and Leeds is improving so much that I am sure it will make many people think about how fortunate they are to be able to get to another major city so fast after these plans are in place.
HS2 was always a white elephant, but as far as the east coast is concerned, it is now a white elephant missing a leg. We were promised that it would relieve congestion on the east coast main line because it would go to Leeds. Where is that promise?
There is one promise that the Secretary of State can keep. For years, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) said, we have been promised a through train that would serve a quarter of a million people and go from Grimsby and Cleethorpes, through Market Rasen in my constituency and Lincoln, down to London. We are still waiting. Just saying, “We are working on it,” is not enough. We have had these promises again and again. Will I be standing here in 2043, when I am 93, still asking for my train?
I suspect that my right hon. Friend will be making a very passionate case! I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), the Rail Minister, is working on the business case.
Let me say something about the east coast main line. What is often misunderstood is that a huge number of upgrades were carried out on the west coast main line in the 1990s to increase capacity, and it was maxed out. On the east coast, those upgrades, which now include digital signalling and other technologies that were not available then, mean that there is still a fair amount of capacity to be exploited. I do not understand the argument of those who say, “Never mind about maxing out the capacity, the electrification, the digitalisation of signalling; let us just rip through and build yet another line.” We should do the things that work and deliver the fastest, in our lifetimes, and that is what this plan will achieve.
There has been a great deal of commitment to HS2 in Sheffield, across the political parties and in the business community, so today there will be a lot of anger. People will feel that Sheffield has once again been snubbed and left behind. I believe that as a consolation we are to see the electrification of the midland main line. Is that the third time it has been promised? It has already been scrapped twice, so are we going to be third time lucky? What is the guarantee?
There are a great many questions to be asked about, for instance, the links between Sheffield and the other major cities, and whether there will be investment in our tram network, including badly needed links to our hospitals. Will the Secretary of State therefore agree to meet Sheffield Members of Parliament, representatives of the city council and the mayor to discuss the details of these proposals and what they actually mean for our city?
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson), the HS2 Minister, is champing at the bit to have exactly that discussion.
I would not want the hon. Gentleman to have inadvertently misled the House or his constituents about today’s announcement, because the good news for him and his constituents is that exactly the same journey times that were promised to him through HS2 now apply to Sheffield, and that rather than having to wait until 2043—as I have said several times—for, in particular, the midland main line upgrades, we will be starting that work this Christmas.
Levelling up across the north means improving our transport and connectivity links for communities such as mine in Hyndburn and Haslingden. As the Secretary of State will know, I have been lobbying about the reopening of the Skipton-to-Colne railway line and the freight terminal, but it is still the case that a 25-mile journey by rail and road can take up to an hour by rail and easily two and a half hours by road at the peak of the rush hour. Can the Secretary of State explain how what has been announced will achieve levelling up in communities like mine, and assure me that there is still a focus on smaller projects?
One of the big announcements today was about smart ticketing, which will make journeys much easier and more convenient for people, and will also enable fares to be capped. If someone—perhaps one of my hon. Friend’s constituents—uses the train several times a week, on more days than they originally budgeted for, and has no season ticket, this version of smart ticketing will enable a contactless system to repay the person’s credit card at the end of the week.
It is true—I want to be completely up front—that not every single town, city and village in the country will benefit from the plan, but this is not the end of it. We still have the rail network enhancements pipeline—the RNEP—which my hon. Friend the Rail Minister is working on, and, of course, many other programmes, including Restoring Your Railway, which will bring further opportunities.
I should be happy to organise a meeting between my hon. Friend and the Rail Minister—and let me, for the sake of clarification, repeat to the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) that his request for a meeting was accepted.
My priority for so many years has been the connectivity of the towns and cities across the north-west of England, and Yorkshire in particular. It would be wrong of me not to say that there was some good news in this morning’s statement—I believe that there are some advantages for Huddersfield—but the problem is that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) has said, there is a hole in the middle of this plan. It is not strategic enough, it is not integrated enough, and it is not ambitious enough. There is some good stuff in it, but will the Secretary of State go back and have a rethink about the boldness and the timescale?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s tone. I know that he was never a fan of HS2 originally. He is right to say that there are many benefits for Huddersfield in this plan—for example, journey times to Birmingham Curzon Street will be cut, there will be more trains to Leeds, and services will improve. However, he is right about the importance of ensuring that this can be stitched into the wider rail network. I think that once he has had an opportunity to read the integrated rail plan, he will find answers to many of his queries, and I welcome his at least tacit support for some of these measures.
I am grateful that the excellent Secretary of State has come to the House and made, as Sir Humphrey would say, such a “courageous” decision. It would be much easier politically to carry on with HS2, but today’s announcement will give better service to more people. In my constituency in the east midlands, electrification going north from Wellingborough is overdue and will be welcomed. We would not have benefited in any way from HS2. Will he say that, because of his courageous decision, he will still be in place next week?
You never know in politics. My hon. Friend makes the good point that electrification can be a real game changer on our railways. I think I am right in saying that he has already experienced it up to his constituency but not further north. This plan completes it and brings electrification of the midland main line up to Sheffield, which will make a dramatic difference to him and his constituents. I thank him for welcoming it.
The announcement scraps much-needed plans to improve rail capacity and connections in communities in the midlands and the north, where economic prosperity should have been boosted. Just a few weeks ago, the Chancellor announced plans to make it cheaper to take domestic flights. Can the Secretary of State explain how those plans together deliver against either of the Government’s stated objectives of levelling up and tackling climate change?
I thought that the hon. Lady was going to ask about how the plan benefits Richmond specifically—I suppose it does for those who want to travel to anywhere in the midlands or north. She is right that it is important that people can travel affordably by rail. It is also right to remind the House that, in all these decisions, we have to consider the wider purse and taxpayers’ money. We have spent £15 billion keeping our rail service going during coronavirus outside of all the other expenditure and we come to the House today with a £96 billion investment package. Of course, we will always try to balance the direct costs to the individual passenger making a journey with those to the wider taxpayer who is supporting the infrastructure. It is always my goal to get more people travelling on the trains and public transport—that is, I think, a worthy goal—and I think these plans will help that in the future.
One feature of Northern Powerhouse Rail as I understood it was a completely new line from Leeds to Bradford and Manchester, and the journey from Bradford to Manchester was to take 20 minutes. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that now it will be more like 45 minutes? Additionally, the new station in Bradford that would have given a King’s Cross-style regeneration opportunity to Bradford, which is in severe need of it, will be missed. Will he confirm that, by not doing that, an economic price will be paid for generations?
No. With the greatest respect, I do not accept that narrative for several reasons. First, that was Transport for the North’s suggestion—and actually it was to be a 29-minute journey. That was one of the options, and another of those options is what we are doing. Secondly, as I have said to the House, there are many benefits to Bradford—including that 12-minute journey to Leeds and a journey at least half an hour shorter to London—which all come about because of the integrated rail plan. Governments have to make decisions, and I accept that we cannot do everything all of the time everywhere, but, when my hon. Friend speaks to his constituents, he will be able to tell them about dramatically improved journey times as a result of the plan.
A few moments ago, in response to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), the Secretary of State extolled the virtues of electrification. Any real plan for the north of England would have: electrification from the seats of my hon. Friends in Hull all the way through to Liverpool; access to Sheffield from Manchester; and access to Newcastle and the north-east. That scale of imagination is lacking in the announcement. Will he guarantee that no damage will be done that would prevent a more ambitious programme in the future?
It might have been lost in translation, but Liverpool to York is a core part of the NPR programme. As I have said before, it will be electrified and have some high-speed lines, too. None of this prevents further electrification. There are new plans to stretch beyond Hull to Newcastle and more. Obviously, no Government can do this in a single go. The plans I have announced today accelerate dramatically the advantages that constituents will get across the north, because it will now happen in this decade—starting from Christmas. This speeds up a lot of that, and the hon. Gentleman is right to say it does not prejudice anything else happening in the future.
My right hon. Friend is right to say that not every city, town and village will benefit from this plan, but one thing is for sure, which is that they will all be paying for it and there are opportunity costs. Does he understand the disquiet of my constituents about HS2 and now this plan, given that he has limited bandwidth and what he is spending on one project is not being spent on upgrading services elsewhere? Will he throw my constituents a small crumb by delaying the planned closure of services from Bristol Temple Meads to Waterloo via Trowbridge and Salisbury, pending a proper consultation that will show very clearly that the Great Western Railway service he thinks duplicates services run by South Western Railway is over capacity now and certainly will be once he closes the GWR service?
My right hon. Friend is right that every decision has a trade-off, which is why it is important that we think about the country as a whole. He will be pleased to hear that I was down in the south-west yesterday using South Western Railway, and I appreciate the importance of that service. I will ensure that he meets the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), to discuss his specific concerns.
Today’s announcement will be a bitter blow to my constituents and the local economy in York, not least because we all know, and the Secretary of State knows, that the trans-Pennine route upgrade will not have the necessary capacity to deliver the rail speeds and connectivity that we need. Will he publish the capacity of that route so that we can understand how my constituents can move west in a timely way?
Yes, I will. The capacity figures are in the document itself. I do not want the hon. Lady to go away from this Chamber and inadvertently mislead her constituents. Journey times from York to Manchester, which are 55 minutes today, will be 28 minutes. There will be a dramatic improvement, and it would be extraordinary if she described that as bad news.[Official Report, 19 November 2021, Vol. 703, c. 6MC.]
The hon. Lady will see that the capacity figures are in the integrated rail plan and, yes, the capacity is there to do it.
I broadly welcome this package of measures, which starts to boost some of the regional economies in the north. Will the Secretary of State make sure that he keeps a keen eye on some of the small local projects, such as the South Fylde line? We currently have one train an hour running from Blackpool South through Fylde and into Preston. We need to make sure that we are investing in such small projects to bring meaningful change.
There is an awful lot coming alongside the IRP, which is just one part of our rail infrastructure. The rail network enhancements pipeline has tens of billions of pounds, and there are also programmes such as the Beeching reversals—I have been to my hon. Friend’s patch in the past to talk about some of those reversals. There are many other opportunities for Members on both sides of the House to look to improve their rail services. The Government are building new lines and just yesterday, as I mentioned earlier, I opened one that had stopped running in the 1970s.
I was personally invested in HS2 as a member of the hybrid Bill Committee for the section from London to Birmingham. I sat on that Committee for 15 months, so I have some understanding of what is happening. Only nine months, one week and one day ago, the Prime Minister answered my question:
“I can certainly confirm that we are going to develop the eastern leg as well as the whole of the HS2.”—[Official Report, 10 February 2021; Vol. 689, c. 324.]
To people in the north of England who live well north of Leeds, this now looks as though HS2 was affordable for the south but it was not affordable for the north. If we are going to put this right, we need to get local schemes such as the Leamside line, the Bensham curve and the new Gateshead station put into the programme, so that people can see some real benefit. It is not just about getting to Leeds, to York, to London; it is about getting from Newcastle to Carlisle, and from Newcastle to Sunderland, to Hartlepool, to Middlesbrough, and those lines take an age. So, Secretary of State, let us make sure that what the Prime Minister said to me nine months ago is not just more empty rhetoric from the bank of broken promises.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about new lines. The Ashington to Newcastle line, which is likely to be the second or third Beeching reversal, will do exactly what he has asked for: it will bring services from Ashington, through Blyth, to Newcastle. These are brand new lines. This integrated rail plan is not the whole picture; it is the part of the picture that was to do with NPR and midlands rail. I know that he dismisses it, but a 21-minute improvement on journeys from Newcastle to London because of this plan will be appreciated by his constituents—I cannot think why it would not be. It is exactly the sort of capacity improvement that we want to see. I remind him and the whole House: this is not the end state of our railway. It is just the next stage, which will immediately provide a 21-minute improvement for his constituents.
I thank my right hon. Friend for this statement, as there is a lot in the plan to welcome in Nottinghamshire, not least the opportunity to build a new station at Toton, where we can create thousands of jobs. Will he confirm for my Mansfield constituents that there is good news in the plan on the Maid Marian line and Robin Hood line, which can help them to access those jobs at Toton?
My hon. Friend has been an extraordinary advocate, and Nottinghamshire and his Mansfield constituents are big winners today. Toton is coming, along the lines already discussed, and we have that very important tie-up between Birmingham and Nottingham—it just did not exist under previous plans—together with Derby. He is right to say that those two lines get a mention in today’s programme. There is much more work to do, of course, to bring them to life.
Twice in this Chamber I have asked the Prime Minister to commit to the HS2 eastern leg, and twice he has done so from that Dispatch Box. Today, that promise goes up in smoke, as will thousands of jobs associated with the project in the east midlands—more skilled jobs lost in our community. This is economic vandalism. My constituents will ask me why yet another promise to our community has been broken. Will the Secretary of State tell me what I should say to them?
In addition to the recently announced improvements to the train service from Kettering, including a 46-minute, non-stop London to Kettering service and the reintroduction of the half-hourly service northwards, which was taken out by Labour in 2010, I welcome the better connectivity that will be experienced by rail passengers from Kettering as a result of the integrated rail plan. Will the Secretary of State confirm the timetable for the electrification of the midland main line and, in particular, the section between Kettering and Market Harborough?
The good news is that that is starting very soon. I made reference to work starting by Christmas and I think—this is subject to my checking—that it is actually the Kettering section that will be starting. I know that my hon. Friend’s area has already benefited from rail electrification to the south, and this brings it to the north as well.
So in this downgraded plan, the Secretary of State has announced a high-speed line between Liverpool, Warrington, Manchester and the western boundary of Yorkshire. Just what we needed: a Mancunian express to Saddleworth moor. We do not need a study in how to get trains to Leeds. Just build what was promised: the full Northern Powerhouse Rail. That is all we need.
Yes, of course, every Government could simply say, “Why don’t we just do this? Why don’t we do that? Why don’t we do the other?” However, eventually, it has to be paid for. More importantly, we want to see it in the lifetime of our constituents now, not in some never-never land in the 2040s. We want to see these advantages delivered. The hon. Gentleman makes the important point about why, as he rightly says, we are doing high-speed rail to Marsden, in the west of Yorkshire. The answer is, as I am sure he knows, because that is where the congestion is, coming out of Manchester; that is where the trains are getting stuck because there are not sufficient paths. This will resolve that problem and give us a 33-minute Manchester to Leeds journey, which I would have thought he would be welcoming for his constituents.
Residents just north of Crewe in my Eddisbury constituency, and particularly those in and around Wimboldsley, have consistently raised a number of specific concerns about the proposed route through their area—namely in respect of salt and brine subsidence, the location of the HS2 railyard, and the impact on and possible viability of the excellent local primary school. My hon. Friend the HS2 Minister has kindly agreed to meet those residents, but will my right hon. Friend look again at the substantial evidence they have accumulated, so that it can be taken into consideration for any future proposals and he can perhaps come up with a better alternative plan?
It is not rocket science: the road to levelling up, however we define it, goes by rail. That is the only way the north can achieve the level of economic integration necessary to deliver the high-pay, high-productivity jobs that my constituents deserve. Will the Secretary of State confirm that this watered-down, broken-promise plan, made in Whitehall, not the north, means that every single Tory MP with a seat in the north-east will go into the next election on a platform of “We did you over last time; please let us do you over again”?
No, they will go in on the platform of saying that we have reduced journey times, provided more seats and increased capacity and reliability. For example, Newcastle to Peterborough is a big winner, with 21 minutes cut off the train journey to London. I do not know about my hon. Friends, but I think they will have plenty to say.
On behalf of the people of Rother Valley, I thank the Government for getting rid of the eastern leg of the 2b arm. It was a damaging and destructive thing for South Yorkshire that would have given us no benefits. Will the Secretary of State confirm that, now that we have scrapped that ridiculously expensive project, we are going to invest the money into the projects we actually need, such as better regional buses, better regional transport and better trans-Pennine links?
We are absolutely cognisant of the fact that we can spend the money only once and want to make sure that it benefits as many people as possible, and we are doing exactly that. I have said to the House, we are still going to spend time, energy and money on the best way to get HS2 trains to Leeds, but without some of the disruption that my hon. Friend described.
I invite the Secretary of State to travel with me the 46 miles from Otley in my constituency to Manchester Piccadilly at peak time. He will then see the twin challenges of connectivity and capacity. First, if the bus turns up in Otley it then takes more than an hour to get to Leeds train station, and there is then the challenge of actually getting on the train to Manchester, because it is full. That is why we need, first, Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, because we need additional capacity, and secondly, £3 billion for a full mass transit system for West Yorkshire to be not just promised but delivered into the coffers of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
The good news is that there will be much-improved frequency of trains from Leeds to Manchester—it looks like around three trains an hour will become seven or eight trains an hour under the plan. The hon. Gentleman will thereby get a lot of good things, including a reduction in the capacity restrictions that are the major cause of problems. That also answers the question asked by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) a few moments ago about why we need that link from Manchester out to West Yorkshire.
I very much welcome what has been announced today. If we are truly to level up opportunities in Stoke-on-Trent, we must address the issues of capacity on the local network, and particularly release the full benefits of HS2 and the fantastic restoring your railway fund projects we have been working on. Will my right hon. Friend agree to look at the capacity enhancements that we want to see on the local network in and around Stoke-on-Trent?
The strengthening of regional rail is the right thing to do and my right hon. Friend has my support in that respect; however, given that the original HS2 business case was ropey at best, will my right hon. Friend set out what the loss of a leg does to the overall business case? Surely, the right thing to do is to scrap it altogether, save more than £100usb billion and put that into more of the regional schemes.
My hon. Friend should tell that to the 2 miles of tunnel that has already been dug for HS2. I know he has not been the HS2 plan’s firmest supporter, but at this stage, with 20,000 people and hundreds of apprenticeships working with HS2, I think that train has probably left the station.
I welcome the £96 billion, which represents the largest investment in northern railways since Victoria sat on the throne.
High Peak sits between the two great cities of Manchester and Sheffield, which are just 30 miles apart but have some of the worst transport links anywhere in the country. I therefore welcome the Government’s commitment to tackle the issue with, first, the Mottram bypass and Glossop spur road, and secondly, the upgrade to the Hope Valley line, which I am pleased to see is included in the integrated rail plan. Will the Secretary of State agree to work with me and meet me so that we can ensure that not only Manchester and Sheffield but passengers from places such as New Mills, Chinley, Edale, Hope and Bamford benefit from that upgrade?
My hon. Friend has been a doughty campaigner for his constituents and, as he says, work on the Hope Valley line is under way, as confirmed in the programme announced today. I am sure that it will bring the wider benefits that my hon. Friend’s constituents so desperately want.
By anyone’s standards, £96 billion is a major investment. Will the Secretary of State outline the improvements and timetable for services from Durham and Darlington to London and to the great cities of the north? The key thing for communities such as North West Durham, where we currently have no train lines at all, is connectivity, so will the Secretary of State assure me and the other north-east MPs who have already spoken that he and the DFT will continue to look at and work with us on connectivity for our constituencies?
My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that Darlington is a big winner out of this package. The improved journey times and reliability from places such as Durham because of the east coast main line upgrades will make a big difference. I know that my hon. Friend is already making significant progress on his restoring your railway bids, because he has recently had success on that front.
HS2 is going to be transformative for my Crewe and Nantwich seat, bringing jobs and investment, so I am delighted that the Government have today committed to the Crewe-Manchester leg, which will bring journey times to the airport down to 15 minutes and journey times into Manchester itself down to less than half an hour, as well as, of course, freeing up the existing route. In respect of the leg from Birmingham to Crewe, I saw how important the passing of legislation was to unlock business confidence and investment, so will the Secretary of State outline when we can expect legislation on the Crewe to Manchester leg to pass into law?
It is really difficult for me to share the optimism about today’s announcement, because it is very disappointing to hear that HS2 phase 2b will not be scrapped in full. I know that my constituents will share that disappointment. We are the most affected constituency, with phase 1 and now phase 2b, yet we are not seeing any of the perceived benefits and are already seeing families, communities and businesses in areas such as Coleshill and Water Orton devastated. Now that is going to carry on for many years to come. Will the Secretary of State confirm what reassessment is being made of the already fragile HS2 business case, particularly now that it will not extend fully to the north in the foreseeable future? What benefits does he think today’s wider announcement will bring for my constituents?
My hon. Friend quite rightly and properly highlights the challenges; any major building project can have big impacts on his constituents and others, and that can be too easily forgotten in debates in the House. I know that the individual business cases on the different phases of HS2 are being taken forward. The HS2 Minister has already visited my hon. Friend, and I recommit today to making sure that we do everything possible with him to best represent his constituents, because I appreciate that HS2 does not benefit an area just because it cuts through it.
I welcome the integrated rail plan and the wider electrification project that the Government are pursuing—including the link between Bolton and Wigan—but my constituents, whether going from Horwich Parkway or Hag Fold into Manchester, have concerns about reliability because of a bottleneck in Manchester. What will my right hon. Friend do to ensure that Manchester improves its reliability, capacity and connectivity?
The Manchester recovery taskforce, mentioned on page 104 of the integrated rail plan, is working on that very knotty problem of what happens in the corridor as we come through and out of Manchester. It is one thing that this plan seeks to resolve, and it will help my hon. Friend’s constituents in Bolton to get that electrification, particularly between Wigan and Bolton, sorted out as well. There is a lot in here for him to digest and I look forward to my next visit.
I congratulate the Secretary of State and his excellent team on this far more sensible approach. However, may I respectfully suggest that the lesson from the HS2 debacle—it is not so much a turkey as a turkey mixed with a white elephant—is that never again must a politician’s vanity project, and a New Labour one at that, be allowed to gather a head of steam? Secondly, is he sure that the £40 billion on the Birmingham to Crewe route is the best use of public money, when there would be far more support in this House for properly funding all the northern powerhouse? Thirdly, may I gently remind him that the Wessex routes are the most underfunded and overused in Britain?
I was wondering how the Isle of Wight might benefit from HS2. Of course it will when my hon. Friend’s constituents cross to the mainland and want to travel north. With regard to Birmingham to Crewe, it has already been legislated for, and it received support from across the House. I do not think that we want to spend too much time going back into an argument about that on a day when we are looking at joining-up plans for the north and the midlands, much as I could be enticed.