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Railways: North-west Regional Planning

Volume 685: debated on Thursday 19 October 2006

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Tom Harris) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Department for Transport has today published the north-west regional planning assessment for the railway (RPA), the fourth in a series of 11 RPAs covering England and Wales. The north-west RPA covers the whole of the north-west region.

RPAs are the key link between regional spatial planning (including preparation of regional transport strategies) and planning for the railway by both Government and the rail industry and are designed to inform the development of the Government's strategy for the railway. They look at the challenges and options for development of the railway in each region over the next 20 years, in the wider context of forecast change in population, the economy and travel behaviour. An RPA does not commit the Government to specific proposals. Instead, it sets out the Government’s current thinking on how the railway might best be developed to allow wider planning objectives for a region to be met and identifies the priorities for further development work.

The north-west region has a population of just over 6.8 million, 11 per cent of the UK total, and the highest population density of any region outside London. While population levels are not expected to grow significantly, the number in employment is expected to grow. Growth in rail passenger journeys is forecast for the region and it is expected that there will be particular growth in longer distance journeys, particularly to London and the south-east. Within the region, the highest increases are expected to be in journeys to and from the metropolitan areas.

Planning for railways in the north-west needs to take into account a changing economic and social context set out in the regional spatial strategy and regional economic strategy. Rail has a part to play in addressing national and regional government agencies’ aims and delivering the objectives of initiatives such as the Northern Way, which have influenced the formulation of the north-west RPA.

The RPA clarifies the role of the railway in the region, its contribution to the economy and its place in the overall transport system, setting out where greater rail capability and capacity will be needed over the next 20 years, and the options for responding to that need. The focus of the RPA is making better use of the existing network but it also draws attention to the need to improve access to stations, including interchanges, and the expected need to increase train capacity to meet forecasted growth in demand.

Copies of the document have been placed in the House Libraries.