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Northern Powerhouse Rail: Stakeholders

Volume 705: debated on Thursday 16 December 2021

3. What recent discussions he has had with (a) Transport for the North and (b) other stakeholders in the north of England on completing further sections of Northern Powerhouse Rail. (904781)

17. What recent discussions he has had with (a) Transport for the North and (b) other stakeholders in the north of England on completing further sections of Northern Powerhouse Rail. (904800)

We will build Northern Powerhouse Rail, including 40 miles of new high-speed line and electrification of the TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds.

I thank the Minister for that response, but the reality is that the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities are refusing point blank to meet Transport for the North. The Secretary of State has claimed that the Government’s rail promises to the north are going to be fulfilled, so will he now commit to meet TfN to implement the plans contained in the northern transport charter?

I am sorry, but the hon. Lady is wrong. I meet Transport for the North regularly. I am happy to meet it again.

The Secretary of State meets northern leaders regularly. The Secretary of State established the Northern Transport Acceleration Council. I am sure he will continue to meet all northern stakeholders. But the most important thing here is that we are getting on with delivering for the north, with over £17 billion being invested in Northern Powerhouse Rail.

In the north, we have been waiting six years for the so-called Northern Powerhouse Rail to improve connectivity between our major cities, yet in the integrated rail plan the Government broke their promise and ditched the line between Manchester and Leeds in favour of tinkering upgrades to existing routes. Northern Powerhouse Rail’s chief architect, George Osborne, last month accused the Prime Minister of lacking ambition and said:

“Levelling up, at the moment, feels more like a slogan than a plan”.

Minister, why do this Government keep on failing the north?

It is simply not true. Since 2010, we have invested over £29 billion in northern transport. There comes a moment when you have to move away from big fancy plans to actually delivering. This plan is going to deliver benefits for the north: £17 billion being invested in Northern Powerhouse Rail, with early benefits happening soon; and over £2 billion already committed to the TransPennine route upgrade. We are getting on with delivering benefits to passengers across the north.

After 18 years of Tory underfunding, privatising, fragmenting and running our railways into the ground, the priority of the last Labour Government was to invest billions of pounds to modernise our old, inefficient trains. Given the awareness around the climate crisis, the priority during the last decade should have been to electrify our railways, but it has been a lost decade. After abandoning Northern Powerhouse Rail, betraying our northern towns and cities, I was stunned to read reports that Government promises on electrification are being broken because the Treasury has decided to block the £30 billion needed to decarbonise our railways, even though it knows full well that over 10,000 km of rail must be electrified by 2050 to get to net zero. So can the Minister answer a simple question: how is he ever going to meet Government targets on electrification when the Chancellor is blocking the funding needed to get there?

Again, unfortunately, the Opposition are just getting this simply wrong. The integrated rail plan will kick off the electrification of more than 75% of the country’s rail network. If the hon. Member takes the TransPennine route through Church Fenton at the moment, he will see the overhead electrification cables being erected. The midland main line electrification will start before Christmas. I would just gently remind the Opposition spokesman that, in 13 years of Labour Government, they electrified only 63 miles. Over the past 11 years, we have already electrified 1,221 miles.