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Closed Rail Lines: Restoration

Volume 708: debated on Thursday 3 February 2022

We are committed to reversing the Beeching cuts and reopening railways through our £500 million restoring your railway fund. I was pleased to reopen the first such line—the Dartmoor line—in November 2021.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that restoring the Burscough Curves link, which would connect Southport with Preston and up to Glasgow via the west coast main line, should be a priority for the Government, both to demonstrate the levelling-up agenda and connect all regions of our great United Kingdom?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend—and, it seems, yourself, Mr Speaker—that it would be a great idea. My hon. Friend is a fantastic champion for the people of Southport. I know he applied unsuccessfully for the first round of restoring your railway fund money, but I am very committed to working with him on that to link up his community. I will arrange to meet him. I spoke to him about it this week and I am arranging to meet the Rail Minister on the subject.

We are moving forward with the Rawtenstall to Manchester line, which would significantly benefit my constituents in Haslingden, but will the Secretary of State provide the House with an update on the Skipton to Colne railway line?

I certainly can. Regarding the Skipton-East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership—or SELRAP—and the rail link between Skipton and Colne, I appreciate my hon. Friend’s unstinting support for the scheme and will set out our position on the projects in the rail enhancement portfolio very soon.

Good morning, Mr Speaker. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the residents of Levenmouth and East Neuk of Fife, who will see their rail link restored more than 50 years after it was abolished by his predecessor? Yet another Westminster cut reversed by Scottish Parliament as part of the transition to net zero. Does he agree that the glacial progress on reconnecting communities in England to the national rail network is hindering growth, compared with the Scottish Government’s record of delivering real benefits for the people of Scotland?

No, I do not agree. It has taken 50 years for a UK Government to come along and reopen the lines that were closed under Beeching and successive Governments. We are the ones reversing that and paying to reverse it, and Britain is proud of that.

If we are really going to celebrate the 200th anniversary, it would be good to open even more lines. You will know, Mr Speaker, that not far from your constituency, the first person to be killed on the railway was a Member of Parliament and Minister when the Rocket was being trialled. We should remember that.

If we are serious about marking the anniversary and bringing the old lines back into use, will the Secretary of State look again at Yorkshire? We feel absolutely bereft. Here is this opportunity, with a Government commitment to raise standards and level up, at a time when the Government have smashed the integrated plan for Yorkshire rail.

Huddersfield massively benefits from the £96 billion plan—the biggest plan that any Government have ever announced on railway funding. By the way, it is bigger than the plan that President Biden just announced for railways in his package, even though the United States has a population that is five times bigger than ours. I would have thought that people in Huddersfield would be celebrating in the streets.