The Government and Homes England are exploring potential opportunities and options at Thamesmead and Beckton Riverside with the Greater London Authority and Transport for London.
Thamesmead in my constituency needs levelling up. It has some of the worst public transport links in the capital. There are ambitious plans to extend the docklands light railway to Thamesmead, which are supported by Greenwich and Newham councils and Transport for London. Will the Minister look favourably at these proposals when they are submitted to the Government, and provide the necessary funding to finally put Thamesmead on the transport map?
With regard to extending the DLR, the scale of the opportunity from the potential options at Thamesmead and Beckton Riverside is being explored and the Government and Homes England are working together with the Greater London Authority and Transport for London to do this.
I would like to update the House on action we have taken against the behaviour of Insulate Britain activists. Last year I asked National Highways to seek injunctions against the so-called eco-warriors who have inflicted such misery on motorists across the country, and following the latest High Court hearing yesterday a further five immediate prison sentences were imposed as well as 11 suspended sentences against Insulate Britain activists for breaching these injunctions. That brings the total number of sentences and suspended sentences handed down to 31.[Official Report, 8 February 2022, Vol. 708, c. 10MC.] Gluing oneself to the tarmac and throwing paint on public highways, causing miles of misery, just is not on; it affects hard-working people and causes misery to them, costing the taxpayer money.
The Secretary of State will know that vehicle standards, including for e-scooters, are reserved to Westminster. I am hugely concerned about the impact of e-scooters on people living with sight loss in Wales as they cannot be heard and are very quick. What plans does he have to assess the impact of the already widespread and illegal use of e-scooters in Wales?
We currently have a trial programme for e-scooters, with 31 trials in operation, which is collecting the data that the hon. Lady seeks. I share her concerns, particularly about e-scooters sold through the private market where they are not legal to be ridden on the roads or pavement, or indeed in the public arena. We are looking at measures that will crack down on those while ensuring that those that have been properly insured and used through the trials continue until we have all the data.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter today, and I appreciate the incident on Sunday near Haddiscoe will undoubtedly have caused disruption to passengers, but I understand that work is going well and I am sure he will be pleased to know that services are expected to resume on Saturday morning. Network Rail recently outlined its long-term adaptation ambitions, which are now being considered at local level. Importantly, this will help build greater understanding of the key areas of vulnerability that are critical in the development of plans to mitigate and minimise impacts on passengers.
I welcome the new rail Minister, the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), to her post. Last year the Prime Minister promised
“great bus services…to everyone, everywhere”,
with £3 billion of new funding to support that. Yesterday we learned the truth about the transformation funding—slashed by £1.8 billion. Why have the Government broken their promise and downgraded the ambition of communities?
I am really pleased that the hon. Lady has raised this, because I have seen her tweet and talk about it elsewhere and I want to inform her that she is inadvertently misleading. The figure is still £3 billion; the £1.2 billion is a part of that £3 billion and there are other elements of funding that have already been announced, including £0.5 billion on decarbonisation, and more money is on the way. So that is simply an incorrect figure that I ask her not to continue to repeat.
I can assure the House that I am not the one misleading anybody. We have it in black and white, in a leaked letter from his own official, who wrote to local transport authorities confirming the cut and saying
“the scale of the ambition across the county greatly exceeds the amount”
of transformation funding. Doesn’t that say it all: the ambition of this country far exceeds that of the Government? So will the Secretary of State come clean by admitting that vast swathes of the country will not get a penny in transformation funding and that he sold bus transformation but is delivering managed decline?
No, that is absolutely incorrect. We have just heard about this Government’s investment in Stoke. That is investment we are going to spread across the country. It is false to claim that that £1.2 billion is the total funding. It is not, as I have already pointed out. There will be £5.7 billion over five years for the city region sustainable transport settlement, for example, bringing more money in. I will write to the hon. Lady with a detailed breakdown, but I ask her to take into account the full amount of money being spent on buses—a record never achieved before by any Government, as far as I can see.
It is two years since the Prime Minister pledged 4,000 zero-emission buses, but that pledge is in tatters. Not a single bus has been ordered through the fast-track zero-emission bus regional areas scheme. In contrast, the Scottish Government have already produced the equivalent of 2,700 bus orders. No one in the industry—not a single person—thinks that the Prime Minister’s pledge will be met, and let us remember that 4,000 is only one tenth of the English bus fleet, while Scotland decarbonises half of its bus fleet. When are the UK Government going to get real on this?
The Government remain absolutely committed to supporting the introduction of 4,000 zero-emission buses and achieving a zero-emission bus fleet. I had the joy of visiting a place in Glasgow, when I was there for COP26, that is rolling out those buses, and this will support our climate ambitions, improve local transport for communities and support high-quality green jobs. Overall, we are providing £525 million of funding for ZEBs this Parliament, and the Government have provided funding for 900 zero-emission buses through existing funding schemes.
We will of course look into my right hon. Friend’s suggestion, but over the past two years we have provided over £1.7 billion in covid-related support to the bus sector. The recovery grant is worth more than £250 million to operators and local authorities, and has been supporting the sector as passenger numbers remain suppressed.
If the hon. Lady is exempt from levelling up, we need to have a word with the Mayor of London about it, because transport in her constituency is run by him, of course. On a serious note, I am very interested in that scheme, and I will speak to her about it offline.
HS2 Ltd takes its responsibilities to secure and maintain land along the line of route extremely seriously. I thank my right hon. Friend for taking the time to show me some of the specific problem sites when I visited her constituency. Where fly-tipping or littering occurs, HS2 Ltd must act to address it as soon as possible.
I thank the hon. Member for his question, but I refer him to the 31 trials currently ongoing throughout the country to identify how we can legislate in the safest possible way. We regard micro-mobility as an essential part of the transition towards a much cleaner community, but I will endeavour to meet colleagues in the Home Office to discuss matters of policing with regard to illegal electric scooters.
We would be very pleased to organise that meeting with my hon. Friend. I will set up a meeting for him with the Minister with responsibility for roads. As the House knows, we are spending £24 billion on roads and at least half of that is for their upkeep and maintenance.
That decision is yet to be taken, but in terms of the hon. Gentleman’s council and the money it is missing out on, it is disappointing to learn that in Chester the green bus technology fund, the low emission fund, the ultra-low emission fund, the all-electric bus city fund and all the zero-emission bus regional area funds have not been taken advantage of by his council. I really would encourage him to work with his council to make the most of the generous offers provided by the Department.
Airlines have had a tough couple of years, of course, but so too have passengers and travel agents in obtaining refunds from those airlines. This has been going for years. Reform is badly needed, with a regulator that has upfront powers to effect change. I am delighted to see the Government’s consultation. Can I ask the relevant Minister when we expect to see change implemented?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I commend him for his work on this and a number of issues. The consultation on consumer rights has just been launched. We will be running that and carefully considering the options that come out of it. We will be looking to make the necessary changes as soon as possible.
The Scottish Government are currently rolling out free bus travel across Scotland for anyone under the age of 22. Will the UK Government take a moment to congratulate the Scottish Government and tell us when they might deliver the same for young people in England?
Will the Secretary of State agree to an urgent meeting with me and representatives of the business community in North West Leicestershire impacted by the Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway route of HS2, to discuss the necessary changes to the route to enter Parkway station and any possible mitigations?
My hon. Friend remains a doughty champion of businesses in his constituency that will be affected by the proposals in the integrated rail plan. I would be more than happy to meet him again to discuss those proposals and the specific impacts on residents and businesses.
Further to the issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), south-east London is not served by the London underground, which means our constituents rely heavily on rail services. A station in my constituency where there has been a major redevelopment has seen a nearly 50% increase in footfall: there are 1.5 million entrances and exits a year. It is essential that capacity is maintained and increased on our rail services because of the lack of alternatives. May I impress that on Ministers who will make decisions on the franchise?
As I explained earlier, we are working closely with the rail operators as they mitigate the impact of staff absences on rail services. Obviously, as restrictions are lifted and staffing pressures ease, operators will reinstate services to meet expected increases in passenger demand. I think it is fair to say that no timetable is ever static. As demand patterns continue to evolve while we recover from the pandemic, timetables must be flexible.
I welcome the massive investment this Government are making in the east midlands. They are electrifying the midlands main line as we bring HS2 from Birmingham to Nottingham. However, to benefit fully, my constituents need better trains to Nottingham. Will the Minister support my campaign for more trains on the Poacher line so that my constituents in villages such as Radcliffe-on-Trent can have the regular train service they need?
My hon. Friend rightly points out the massive investment going into the east midlands. I am sure the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), will be more than happy to meet her to discuss the specific configuration of local services.
My constituents already face long waits for overpriced bus services without the real-time data that Londoners take for granted, and now we hear that there will be further cuts to bus services. We urgently need a bus service improvement plan. Why will the Secretary of State not urgently support one?
As I have mentioned a couple of times, we have the biggest ever programme of bus service improvements. We have gone out to local authorities to ask them for their plans, and we have funded them to bring forward those plans. They are now coming back with the first stages in the levelling-up White Paper. We will continue to deliver more on the bus agenda over time.
There has been clear interest on both sides of the House in investment in the future of buses, and we have a very positive bid from North Yorkshire County Council, working with local bus companies, to improve the services in Harrogate and Knaresborough. Will the Minister give me an indicative date for when we might hear of that bid’s success?