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Local Transport: West Midlands

Volume 747: debated on Thursday 21 March 2024

In total, local transport authorities across the west midlands have been allocated around £5 billion to improve local transport services and infrastructure through the city region sustainable transport settlement, bus service improvement plan funding, and our recently announced local transport fund. One thing that would of course hugely help local transport in the west midlands is for voters in the combined authority to re-elect our fantastic Mayor, Andy Street.

Hear, hear! The extension of the Birmingham to Lichfield line goes all the way to Burton and passes the National Memorial Arboretum. At the moment, the line is used only for freight, and I was told four years ago that the cost of upgrading it for passenger traffic would be only about £10 million, which is nothing in the great scheme of things. When will we see the line being completed so that people can go to the National Memorial Arboretum, which has half a million visitors a year, by rail instead of always having to use road?

I know that my hon. Friend is a long-standing champion of that scheme and takes every opportunity to raise it with us. It is for local authorities to promote schemes for transport in their areas. I am pleased to tell him that, following our decision to cancel the second phase of High Speed 2, we have been able to make significant funds available, so Staffordshire County Council—his local authority—will get just under £260 million from the local transport fund. I urge him to talk to the council to see if it can fund the very modest bid that he has just set out for that scheme.

The tram system in the west midlands is not going according to plan unfortunately, and the rail line between Moor Street, Snowhill and Marylebone—the Chiltern line, as it is known—is underperforming and has become highly unreliable. The air quality in our area, including in Warwick and Leamington, Snowhill and elsewhere, is very poor because the service is diesel-run. Other countries, such as India, have electrified their main networks. Will the Minister electrify the Chiltern route using the budget freed up from HS2?

There are significant plans to electrify across the network. Another thing we can do to spend money more cost-effectively is consider where battery trains can be used in order not to electrify the very expensive parts of the network. I am also aware that Chiltern is looking at modernising its rolling stock, particularly to improve air quality. All the things that the hon. Gentleman raises are absolutely in progress. The Rail Minister will be able to say more about them in due course.