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Reopening Railway Lines and Stations

Volume 717: debated on Thursday 30 June 2022

Through the £500 million Restoring Your Railway fund we have already reopened the Dartmoor line, and we are supporting more than 45 other promising schemes. This month we announced £15 million to further develop nine schemes to level up areas and grow the economy.

Last year the leader of Ashfield District Council announced in the local paper that the Maid Marian line was a goer and claimed full credit. This year he has announced to the local paper that it is not going ahead and blamed the Government. Will the Minister please confirm exactly where we are with the Maid Marian line just to avoid any more embarrassment for the council leader?

I am happy to give the clarity that my hon. Friend is seeking. I know he takes a keen interest in and is a passionate supporter of the Maid Marian line. Although the bid to reopen the Maid Marian line to passenger services was unsuccessful as part of the Restoring Your Railways programme, I want to be absolutely clear that the case will now be considered under the remit of the Toton study. This is the best opportunity to get the line reopened, and I am happy to meet him to discuss it further.

My hon. Friend will know that it was not just Beeching who cut stations serving Stoke-on-Trent; it was also the last Labour Government. Will she confirm that this Government are determined to deliver rail improvements to Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, and that reopening the line from Stoke to Leek via Milton, with services running on from Stoke to Longport and Kidsgrove, is a serious option for relieving transport deprivation and chronic road congestion for all?

My hon. Friend rightly highlights the importance and the benefits of good rail connections to levelling up. He will know that the Stoke-Leek line has successfully secured initial development funding of up to £50,000, and we will be working with the scheme’s promoters to develop a full business case so that a decision can be made later this year.

The Minister will know that the railways have not only a large number of old stations but a lot of property. Will she take seriously making some property from the rail sector available in Huddersfield close to the George Hotel, where we desperately need the perfect site for the rugby league museum? Could she look into that, because there is a lot of property around the hotel? We desperately need her help. Will she intervene?

The hon. Gentleman raises a specific point in his constituency. I would be more than happy to look into it and respond to him.

I am pleased that the reopening of the Barrow Hill line to passenger services has reached the next stage of the review. The problem is that it will be a heavy rail service to a reopened Sheffield Victoria, which has very poor connectivity. Will she look again at the idea of a tram train, following the successful service between Sheffield and Rotherham, which would go into the centre of Sheffield and have real connectivity there? People could then use the newly reopened Beighton station to access it. I know the Minister has offered to meet me already, but will she have a look at that in advance of our meeting?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman recognises the step forward with the Barrow Hill line, and I will certainly look at the issue he raises in advance of our meeting.

Re-establishing a new railway station in St Athan has been a priority for me for some time. The Minister and I have met on several occasions, but we have also discovered that the Welsh Government failed to include it in the new stations fund programme. Will the Minister therefore agree to meet me again, so that we can consider how we can best take this project forward? It is a priority not only for me but for the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Secretary of State knows that he has promised twice to come to the Rhondda to be dangled down a hole into the Rhondda tunnel. We are happy to welcome him at any time. I have had a meeting with him and one with the Minister. They keep promising that they will get this sorted, and that there will be another meeting with all the different stakeholders. We chase and chase, and just like you have seen, Mr Speaker, nothing ever gets done. Can they please sort out the Rhondda tunnel so that we can open it up? It will be a great historic reinvention.

Mr Deputy Speaker—sorry, Mr Speaker. Three strikes and I will be out. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is a matter for the Welsh Government. I have had a meeting with him, and I am more than happy to have another meeting with him, but it is time that the Welsh Government put some money forward.

The Minister and I have met to discuss the notorious Tisbury loop arrangement before. Can she update the House on what she proposes to do about this, since for the expenditure of very little money, she could dramatically improve services between Waterloo and Exeter?

I know that my right hon. Friend has raised this matter before, and I will be happy to give him a written update on the Tisbury loop.