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Transport Connectivity: North-west England

Volume 745: debated on Thursday 8 February 2024

2. What steps he is taking to increase transport connectivity between towns and cities in the north-west. (901407)

Network North will see a further £19.8 billion- worth of investment in the north of England following the redirection of funding from High Speed 2. That is in addition to what has already been committed through the £3.5 billion to northern city regions from the first round of the city region sustainable transport settlements; the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will transform rail connectivity between the north of England’s key economic centres; and £11 billion for the trans-Pennine route upgrade.

In the light of the Government’s commitment to level up through Network North, will my hon. Friend commit to a meeting with me and other key stakeholders to discuss reinstating the Burscough curves rail link, which would connect Southport to Preston and the wider north of England, fulfilling our economic potential and helping us welcome another million visitors a year to Southport?

I am always happy to meet my hon. Friend, and I pay tribute to his doughty campaigning on the reopening of the Burscough curves. It is for local transport authorities to consider whether such projects are the best way to meet local transport needs and, if so, whether they wish to develop the schemes from the significant new transport budgets that the Government will shortly be allocating from HS2 savings.

When the Prime Minister made the decision to scrap HS2, the Department for Transport said that the plan would “lead to increased capacity on the west coast mainline.” That is not correct, is it? I have a leaked document from the Minister’s own officials that proves it. In it, they admit that the decision will mean fewer seats than today, with Glasgow and Manchester badly hit, and because HS2 trains cannot tilt, they will be even slower than current trains. Does he not owe it to the north finally to admit that? Does he accept that he will be the high-speed rail Minister who left behind slower trains and fewer seats?

Obviously, we do not comment on documents that may or may not have been leaked. What I can say is that the HS2 train design has always had capacity for 500 seats; if the trains had doubled up to 400 metres in length, the capacity would, of course, be 1,000 seats. The Network North document committed half a billion pounds to look at unlocking further capacity. Let us be quite clear that the 140 miles of HS2 being built to Birmingham will reduce the journey times not only to Birmingham, but to Manchester by another 27 minutes, and to Liverpool by 26 minutes. As far as the tilting is concerned, as the Department made clear to the Public Accounts Committee, we are looking at where those speeds can still be achieved on the west coast main line without the need to tilt.