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Railways: Trans-Pennine Rail Line

Volume 767: debated on Thursday 10 December 2015

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on the economic development of the north of England of the pausing of the electrification of the Trans-Pennine rail line.

My Lords, for the avoidance of doubt, I confirm that the trans-Pennine railway line to which I shall refer is the Leeds-Huddersfield-Manchester line—I may refer to other matters, too—which does, of course, have important links further east and west. Its electrification was announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement back in 2011, and was to be completed by 2019.

I put this Question down for debate shortly after the announcing of the pausing in June 2015. It would have been easy enough to have pulled the debate once I heard that the de-pausing had been announced on 30 September. However, it is not so simple. Many questions arise.

The first point to raise is the fact that although the pausing stage lasted three months, the delay that is now announced adds three years to the timescale. It is stated that electrification should be complete by 2022. Is there some doubt even about that date? It is very disappointing and does not sit well with another announcement this autumn in the booklet High Speed Two: East and West, the Next Steps to Crewe and Beyond. That tells us that there is to be a six-year acceleration of the route from the West Midlands to Crewe—so the Government pause, de-pause and accelerate. Many in the north, of course, will wonder whether the difference in treatment is due to HS2 originating in London. One wonders whether this would be put up with in London and the south-east.

Secondly, in the pausing statement in June, the Transport Minister, the right honourable Patrick McLoughlin, told Parliament that,

“we need to be much more ambitious for that route”.—[Official Report, Commons, 25/6/15; col. 1068.]

He was referring to the trans-Pennine route. It was announced that the revised electrification plan was an improvement on the previous plan, which only changed the power supply of the trains. That sounds somewhat minimal. Indeed, in order to benefit from the overhead power supply, new rolling stock would be needed, and in any event there would be the advantages of electric power and acceleration. But what is the extent of the change that makes the new plan so much better or more ambitious that a further three years are needed to complete it? What further infrastructure improvements are envisaged? Can the Minister give further details? Indeed, what is the extent of the Minister’s ambition?

Thirdly, little has been said recently about the much-vaunted HS3. In another document—there has been a plethora of documents this last few weeks—The Northern Powerhouse: One Agenda, One Economy, One North, published in March 2015, there are five pages, 17 to 21, on “Our Rail Plan”, but there is no mention of HS3. Similarly, in the Transport for the North: The Northern Transport Strategy Autumn Report, published in November 2015, there is again no reference to HS3. What is Her Majesty’s Government’s present position on HS3? Is that scheme in pause mode? Where is it? If it is still envisaged, what is the connectivity in respect of east-west electrification and HS2?

The fourth point is this. The HS2 east-west document, which runs to 120 pages, repeats that HS2 is not a stand-alone railway. It will be an integral part of our country’s rail system and wider transport infrastructure. The words “classic compatible” are used, yet in this document and another document still—The Yorkshire Hub—lies an interim report on the redevelopment of Leeds station. This document promotes what it describes as “option 2” for the redevelopment of Leeds. The proposal is, perhaps, marginally better than the original plan, which is now described as “option 3”.

I described that earlier plan as a hammerhead terminus. The only difference in the new plan is that the hammer shaft is nearer the hammerhead—or is it as bad as this? Is it intended that there will be another link from the south of the new terminal to swing into the west side of the present station? This is hinted at in The Yorkshire Hub, but it is not on the plan or the map in the Yorkshire Hub booklet. The documents are not clear on this, and for the sake of through connectivity, using existing electrified lines to Bradford and to Skipton, as well as the to-be-electrified lines to Huddersfield, Manchester and further west, and the lines to York, the north and the east, clarification—or perhaps change —is needed.

Another associated point, my fifth point, is that following the pausing/de-pausing/delay saga, could the Minister inform the Committee as to the present prospects for further trans-Pennine electrification via the Calder Valley and the Harrogate lines east of the Pennines? These were much vaunted in the run-up to the general election, but little has been heard of them since. It would be useful to have an update on that.

I am sure that, in his response, the Minister will trumpet yesterday’s announcements on the new franchises. I commend them, but I trust that the Minister will still tackle the issues that I raised, which need addressing now to future-proof the important infrastructure decisions ahead. We need the connectivity, whether it is connectivity HS2 to HS3 or HS2 to everywhere else. That has to be planned for now; it is something that cannot be put off. I look forward to other contributions in this debate and especially to the words of the noble Viscount.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Shutt for initiating this important and timely discussion. It appears that opportunities for better rail services in the north always seem to be disguised as a pause or a stop. Those who have nothing better to do than my Twitter timeline will notice that I have become more and more frustrated with trying to commute and travel between the cities and towns of the north. It is both an exasperating and sometimes fruitless exercise. Many millions of people across the north will be able to associate with that.

I have to say to the noble Viscount that warm words today will not be enough. The north is fed up with warm words. We seek today from this debate a real commitment with timelines and timescales and figures for some of the investment, particularly along the line of the debate heading. I come from Sheffield; I have lived in Sheffield for 20 years and I am not on the north Pennine route but on the south Pennine route. I know, however, that connectivity is absolutely key in the north. Apparently, the Chancellor also knows that connectivity is key, because without it, his northern powerhouse will not happen. We need to connect the great cities and towns of the north in order to deliver not just economic prosperity but a place where people can get around.

Can the Minister say how much money has been put aside for the electrification of the rail line? Is it guaranteed within the cost period 6 for Network Rail? We need to make sure that it does not go the way of the Great Western rail line, where there was a £1.2 billion overspend on an initial scheme of £1.6 billion, which caused the pause in the first place.

With regard to this scheme and the electrification of the Midland main line, does the Minister agree with the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons on 16 November which suggested that it might be appropriate to fund and manage these projects outside the five-year rail funding cycle? That is how Thameslink and Crossrail have been funded, rather than through these pauses, which seem to have become our opportunity. Those two schemes cost £21.1 billion. The scheme for the Midland main line, for example, is only £0.5 billion. I do not decry London getting investment, but I want fairness for the north. So will the Minister say whether these schemes will be out of the five-year funding cycle and will be ring-fenced in a separate fund like Thameslink and Crossrail?

On 15 July, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, in a Written Question if he would commit to the electrification of both the trans-Pennine route and the Midland main line to start and be funded before Crossrail 2 starts. I received very warm words in his answer and I now ask the Minister whether he will commit to funding and starting the two schemes before Crossrail 2?

People in the north do not want warm words. We want to see real delivery of these schemes. If connectivity is king for the north and the northern powerhouse, what about the electrification of the southern trans-Pennine route, via the Hope Valley, between Sheffield and Manchester? It is just as important. It is absolutely incredible that in the 21st century, a 33-mile journey by train takes 51 minutes between two great cities of the north. The One North report that was given to the Government last year asked for this. There has been no answer. In fact, there has been no mention of it. Can the Minister say yes or no? Will the Government commit to the electrification of the southern trans-Pennine route? Furthermore, the line has been downgraded. The Government promised to move from two to four trains an hour, even though the line has not been electrified. They have now committed to only three. So we worry about this route.

What about connectivity between HS3 and HS2, as my noble friend said? There is a big question about the station for HS2 in Sheffield. At present, it looks likely to be located in Meadowhall. However, the HS3 situation means that the HS3 station is in Sheffield city centre. A report by Sheffield Council showed that the Sheffield scheme creates 6,500 more jobs; an extra GVA of £2.5 billion; and should, when successful, create £530 million more business rates. Therefore, if connectivity is king, why is there an HS3 station in Sheffield city centre and an HS2 station out at Meadowhall? Will the Minister commit to trying to locate both in Sheffield city centre?

So we want a 21st century railway—we need it now, and we need firm commitments, not warm words. Unlike my noble friend, I welcome the two new franchises that were given this week. But to be honest, getting rid of Pacer trains and having free wi-fi and more real-time information boards is not the basis of a 21st century railway. Thank you for bringing us into the 20th century with the latest franchise, but we need to see the real issues dealt with regarding connectivity. I remind noble Lords that there is £21.1 billion for London and only £0.5 billion asked for the Midland main line electrification, which has now slipped an extra three years. That may not seem a long time but, when you are a business person who wants greater connectivity, it does.

Along with millions of others in the north, I want to see some firm and real answers to my questions. I want really to understand the cost of the electrification of the north system and when funds will be firmly committed, rather than just saying “by”. I want to see answers to the strategic connectivity for HS2 and HS3 in Sheffield city centre, and I want to understand the Government’s commitment to the trans-Pennine route on the south, between Sheffield and Manchester, where they are in terms of the electrification of the Midland main line and the northern route and whether they will ring-fence funds.

I hope that after the Minister has responded my Twitter timeline will be a little bit more generous and optimistic and that, in a few years’ time, when I am travelling on what we are promised will be a connected, speedy and efficient railway line in the north, others will want to retweet rather than show frustration.

My Lords, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to speak today. The noble Lords, Lord Shutt and Lord Woolmer, both mentioned the critical issue of connectivity. I gave evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on the High Speed Rail Bill a couple of weeks ago and was astonished by how they are still plugging this perfection of a line going somewhere up the middle. It might go into Manchester Piccadilly but it does not seem to go to any other station that is of any use. Certainly in Birmingham there is a 20-minute walk from one station to the other. They have lost it in a kind of wish to be better than the Japanese, or something.

But we are talking about the trans-Pennine route and the north today. I question whether the electrification of the trans-Pennine was ever actually going to go ahead, because I do not think that they had decided where it was going to go or how many tracks it would have, along with little details such as whether the track needed improving and where they would put the posts for the catenary, which was what went wrong with the Great Western.

I am a great believer in electrification but the problem with electrified tracks is that when the electrification stops you either change trains or you have to have a bi-mode train. So it is fine having one electrified route, or even two, from Manchester, or maybe even Liverpool —it is not too far away—to Leeds and Sheffield. But if you want to go on to York or beyond you will have to change trains, or have a bi-mode train. I was therefore interested in yesterday’s Written Statement about having 500 new trains, which the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, mentioned. I believe that they can go at 125 miles an hour, but I cannot see anywhere in the Statement whether they are diesel, electric or bi-mode. Maybe I have got that wrong, but it would be nice if the Minister could confirm it because, if they are electric, they might have to wait a year or two. It would be nice to have them, but they will not be able to operate; they will be sitting in the siding waiting for the wires to go up, which is not a very good idea.

The shortest thing that can be solved is capacity. Noble Lords will know about trains going uphill, especially if they are freight—I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group. The northern powerhouse people have been very positive about freight, and I thank them; they want to see more freight. But it is no good having a passenger train going 125 miles an hour uphill if it is stuck behind a stopping passenger service or a freight train. So putting back what used to be four tracks on the approaches to the tunnels is absolutely fundamental and should come first.

If they can put the posts up for the wires as well, that would be a very good thing to do at the same time. There is no earthly point in going at 125 miles per hour if you have to halt behind the next stopping train. The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, mentioned the need for more trains on the Hope Valley line. Yes, of course there should be, but there has to be a place for through trains to overtake the stopping trains and vice versa.

I hope that the Minister can give us some idea of the timescale for infrastructure improvements to bring more capacity, where those improvements might take place, and how they will be linked to the new trains which might be electric, diesel or a combination of both. Certainly some money needs to be spent, and in much bigger sums than have so far been committed on the ground.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Shutt of Greetland for initiating this debate and for the contributions made by other noble Lords. Despite the fairly small number of speakers, the key issues have been clearly identified and the Minister has been given a large number of questions to respond to. It is likely that I will add one or two to that list.

Back in the middle of June we had an excellent debate on transport in the north, and on that occasion I spoke about the importance of thinking in a pan-northern way, pointing out that connectivity east to west matters far more than perhaps transport planners based in London understand, and that Transport for the North as a single body with a clear remit to promote investment in the transport infrastructure of the north of England is a very welcome development. We have moved on from the position of a few months ago. As has been pointed out, there was real concern just a few days after that debate when the commitments made before the election were paused, leaving the electrification of the trans-Pennine route in doubt.

A lot has been written and said about the matter. It does not affect only the trans-Pennine route between Manchester and York, and real concern has been expressed about the capacity of Network Rail and its planning. I hope very much that those issues have been overcome. It is possible that it may prove to be a blessing in disguise that the pause has happened at all. It may give time for the problems of projects suffering overruns caused by poor planning and poor estimation of costs by Network Rail to be identified and acted upon by the chair, Sir Peter Hendy. I welcome his work, and I welcome, too, the appointment of John Cridland as the first chair of Transport for the North. He said on his appointment a few days ago:

“There is much to do to improve transport capacity and links across the North”—

and he is absolutely right. I hope that he will bring some clarity to the planning process because we still lack a strategic transport plan for the north. Indeed, we lack a strategic transport plan for the whole of the United Kingdom. We have elements of it, but we do not have a single plan.

There are elements of a rail plan for the north of England and we certainly have ambition. I pay tribute to the Minister, to the Secretary of State for Transport and to colleagues in the department because a lot has been happening, and I welcome some of the achievements of recent months. However, we need much more work, and the debate today has identified a number of ways in which the improvements need to be made.

I welcome the decisions announced this week on the Northern Rail and First TransPennine Express rail franchises. I hope that I do not sound churlish when I say that I wish that the hyperbole of DfT press releases could be toned down a bit. This week there was an assertion that the planned rail improvements will,

“make the Northern Powerhouse a reality”.

As a statement that is slightly over the top. It will certainly help, but actually it will take a great deal more than that, including work by other departments of state, to deliver the northern powerhouse. But the sense of direction is right and I pay tribute to Ministers for that.

From the perspective of the north-east—as your Lordships know, I live in Newcastle upon Tyne—there will be 500 new carriages, new peak-time services, greater capacity, an end to Pacer trains, improved stations, better ticketing and full electrification between Liverpool and Newcastle by 2022. That is all welcome news, even though of course it has actually been delayed, as was pointed out to us by my noble friend Lord Shutt of Greetland.

In addition, the First TransPennine Express franchise will deliver £400 million in premiums to the Government over the seven years of the franchise. That is a level never previously achieved. It is good that it is being managed out of the north by the Department for Transport and Rail North Ltd, which represents 29 local authorities across the north and which will build capacity in the north.

I noted that in his press release the Secretary of State for Transport felt that:

“Arriva Rail North Limited and First TransPennine Express Limited went far beyond our requirements with exciting, ambitious plans”.

That made me wonder why the Department for Transport’s requirements were so limited in the first place. If it is easy for those running the franchise to deliver more than was expected in the bid documentation, it seems to me that maybe government underasked. The result demonstrates to me that there is demand for the services, and thus income from travellers will be forthcoming. That is a vindication of those who have been campaigning for improved services.

I ask the Minister to clarify the question of fares, given these two new franchises. Is all of the additional income that is coming in and the improvement to services to be achieved from current income, or is there an expectation that there will be higher fares? I have assumed that fares would not alter, but I would appreciate the Minister’s confirmation that fares will not go up on either of these new franchises over their lifetime.

I referred earlier to the need for a strategic transport plan for the north. There has been mention of integration with HS2, and we have talked about the issues around Leeds and in Sheffield, which I will not repeat. However, there does need to be better integration. I would like to hear the Minister’s observations on my view that the cost of spurs and links between HS2 and city centres should be appraised and budgeted for now as part of the overall HS2 project. There are some big costs that need to be thought about, but they do not form part of the current HS2 budget plans.

Paragraph 60 of the Command Paper that was previously referred to suggests that this can happen “seamlessly”. If these links to HS2 are to happen seamlessly, they have to be planned clearly, but I am unclear what that plan is. We have had a mention of the Leeds-Manchester link, but I am not clear what the top of the Y will look like in the context of HS3. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us what the plans are for HS3, because I am not clear what the policy is on how the two sides of the Y will join up. The Chancellor has talked regularly about this, but I do not know what that link would look like.

Perhaps I could also ask about the east coast main line. Paragraph 51 of that recent Command Paper talks about the HS2 connection to the east coast main line via Church Fenton and states:

“We continue to believe that a link onto the ECML is necessary and complements the Government’s commitment to deliver better transport across the North-East and Yorkshire”.

The timescales are too long. If West Midlands to Crewe can be advanced by six years, there should be a clear commitment that the link to the east coast main line should be put in as part of the extension to Leeds; it should be constructed at the same time. I hope very much that some thought can now be given to that.

I turn to growth within the northern powerhouse. In the end, this is all about growth. Because local authorities will be able to keep 100% of business rate growth in future years, areas that attract development will grow faster, pay more in business rates and therefore enable those areas to invest in better infrastructure. A big worry for areas not on the high-speed line, even if they have the classic compatible rolling stock, is that they will miss out on that increase in business rate income. What assessment has been made of the impact of 100% retention of business rates on areas not on the HS track?

Finally, the point made by my noble friend Lord Scriven about planning cycles and funding cycles is extremely important. If some parts of the country can avoid five-year funding cycles, why cannot the north of England avoid those, too?

I add my thanks to the noble Lord for securing this debate. We welcome improvements to rail services, particularly where they will have the biggest impact. The subject of the debate is about not simply the pausing of the electrification of the trans-Pennine line but about its impact on the economic development of the north of England. If I have guessed correctly in which of his many areas of responsibility the Minister is speaking today—and perhaps I have not—it is interesting that the government spokesperson for this debate is from the Department for Transport rather than from a department one might more normally associate with responsibility for overall economic development.

I do not know, if I am right, whether this means that when the decision was announced by the Secretary of State for Transport to pause the electrification of the trans-Pennine line, the Secretary of State was also responsible for making an assessment of the potential impact of the decision on the economic development of the north of England, or whether likewise when he was announcing that the pause had ended and then subsequently going along with the recommendations from Sir Peter Hendy—which put back the intended date of completion of the electrification of the route—the Secretary of State for Transport was also responsible for an assessment then of the impact of the delay on the economic development of the north of England. Certainly, the report from Sir Peter Hendy called for by the Secretary of State on the replanning of Network Rail’s investment programme did not address this point, and neither does he appear to have been asked to take it into account.

The usual very helpful briefing pack for this debate from the House of Lords Library does not appear to contain very much about any such assessment of the impact of either the pausing, unpausing or subsequent delay in the timescale of this electrification scheme. That could be an oversight. Alternatively, it could mean that such an economic development assessment does not exist, or at least not in the public arena.

I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us when he responds if in reality any proper assessment of the impact of the pausing of the scheme and then subsequent moving back of its completion on the economic development of the north of England has been undertaken, and, if so, who undertook that assessment and what it said. I ask that in the context that, from a purely railway point of view, there have been comments from some sources that the now extended timescale for the electrification of the line could have advantages in that purely electrification of the route within the original timescale within control period 5 would have led to an increase in the costs and complexity of subsequent intended and projected capacity and speed upgrades, and that if the electrification and track improvements to provide faster and more frequent journeys were instead to be undertaken together—as it appears may now be the case—that would also considerably enhance the benefit-cost ratio of the scheme. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that point in his response.

If that point has any validity, it highlights the problem, to put it politely, of Ministers announcing schemes for electrification of rail routes and pushing for early completion dates in the run-up to an election, without thinking through the consequences. Of course, once the election is out of the way, it is politically easier to repent at leisure over completion dates when the impracticality, and perhaps also the lack of sense, of the original timescale and apparent limited extent of the project has to be admitted, as has happened in this instance with the trans-Pennine route. In this case, though, the Government knew before the election—but remained silent—that their projects did not stack up. Network Rail has said that in mid-March 2015, it informed the Department for Transport that decisions might need to be made in the coming months about the deferral of certain schemes.

We have recently had the announcement on the setting-up of a national infrastructure commission to advise on major infrastructure projects. Will the Minister say whether the intended role of the commission is such that, had it been in existence at the time, it would have been asked to advise beforehand on the Government’s pre-election announcements on improved transport links related to the northern powerhouse concept? If so, the national infrastructure commission holds out the prospect for the future of announcements of significant transport infrastructure improvements made prior to an election not subsequently having to be hastily and significantly revised and amended immediately after the election. Perhaps the Minister could comment on the intended role of the NIC in this regard.

The briefing pack includes a copy of a letter dated 30 September 2015 from the Secretary of State to Louise Ellman MP, the chair of the House of Commons Transport Committee. The Secretary of State states that he has asked Network Rail to “unpause” the electrification of the Trans-Pennine route. Perhaps the Minister could say whether “unpause” means the same as “proceed with immediately”. The Secretary of State then goes on in his letter to Louise Ellman to say that,

“Network Rail will work with the Department for Transport and Rail North to develop a new plan for electrification of the TransPennine line between Stalybridge and Leeds and on to York and Selby to focus on delivering key passenger benefits as quickly as possible. This is an improvement on the previous plan which only changed the power supply of the trains”.

That point relates to the point I raised a few moments ago about the scope of the original decision. On that point, on the extent of the proposed electrification, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in March 2015—interestingly, again, close to the election—that electrification would be extended from Selby to Hull, with funding from the private sector. Will the Minister confirm that that is still on track, and indicate when this work will be completed and what level of funding will be required from the private sector?

The letter from the Secretary of State goes on to talk about faster journey times and significantly more capacity between Manchester, Leeds and York. Faster journey times and capacity increases are not, of course, simply about electrification. They are also about track capacity and line speeds. Does the new plan involve providing additional tracks on parts of the route, so that, for example, fast trains can be segregated from stopping services and freight trains—and, if so, to what extent and where? What will be the maximum line speed on the newly electrified line once the work has been completed? By what extent will the freight capacity of the route be increased following electrification and the increase in line capacity? These are all issues that will impact on the economic development of the north of England, which is the subject of this debate.

The report from Sir Peter Hendy states that Network Rail has sought to balance the level of expenditure required to manage the core business and the extent to which it can deliver the full enhancement programme within the available funding. The report goes on to say that Network Rail has concluded that the core business can be managed within the borrowing limit that has been set for control period 5, but that the principal change to achieve this will be a reduction in renewals activity, which Network Rail considers can be managed safely and will not create a backlog that cannot be caught up in subsequent control periods. Are the Government happy to see renewals activity reduced as part of the replanning of their investment programme, including electrification schemes? Presumably, the present renewals programme has been drawn up on the basis of what needs to be done and when.

A further consequence of the replanning of the investment programme is that Network Rail will have to divest itself of assets, including property assets, to provide required levels of funding. As Sir Peter Hendy’s report says, selling assets to fund enhancements has implications for the future funding of the railway, as less income from property means that more will have to come from elsewhere. That could, of course, include higher fares for passengers and freight. Reducing Network Rail’s future income looks like a decidedly questionable move, based on short-term considerations rather than long-term thinking.

The electrification of the trans-Pennine route will not now be completed until 2022. It will be delivered not within control period 5—as originally intended—but across control periods 5 and 6. Will the Minister say when, during 2022, it will now be completed? Will the Minister also say what the cost of the delayed electrification of the trans-Pennine route will now be compared with the previous estimated cost, which I believe was in the region of £240 million, but I accept that I could be seriously wrong on that? What part of any increased cost is due to the pausing of the scheme and subsequent delay in its completion? When will the electrification of the route now actually commence?

What impact will there be on rail services on the trans-Pennine route as a result of the necessary infrastructure work being undertaken during the period from now until the completion of the electrification project some time in 2022? If it will result in an adverse impact on services, both passenger and freight, over that period of time, to what extent will that be the case, and what impact will that have on the economic development of the north of England over the next seven years, which is what this debate is about?

I hope that some lessons have been learned from the pausing, unpausing and delaying of the trans-Pennine electrification scheme, not least the problems of playing election politics with major railway infrastructure projects. As the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said last month:

“The 2014-2019 rail investment programme could not have been delivered within the budget which the department, Network Rail and the Office of Rail and Road agreed”.

It added:

“Over promising what can be delivered leads to inevitable delays and cost overruns; and simply delaying projects further as a budget management mechanism is not good financial planning”.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, on securing this debate on the trans-Pennine rail line. I am very glad that he has pursued the debate, as I detected a slight hesitation in his speech as a result of the so-called “unpause” in September.

This has been a short but useful debate, with many very good contributions. I understand the depth of concern and why the debate was secured. A number of questions were raised—some quite technical from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser—so if I run out of time and am not able to answer them, I pledge to write to the noble Lord and copy in all other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, that this is not just warm words from the Government; there is some action. I hope that I will be able to prove that in the next 10 minutes or so.

I start by outlining the wider context of this debate. This Government have recognised that successive Governments have failed to invest adequately in transport both in the north of England and across the wider UK, and have now chosen to invest in transport for the long term. The transformation has already started. I am glad that some noble Lords recognised this in the debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. From March this year, electric trains were introduced on services in the north-west. Manchester Victoria station, once called the worst station in the UK, has been transformed. Train manufacturing has returned to the north-east, with Hitachi’s new £82 million factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. This is creating more than 700 jobs and will support thousands in the UK supply chain.

Noble Lords will be aware that yesterday the Government announced an exciting new development, as was mentioned in the debate. The new northern and trans-Pennine rail franchises will see transformative improvements to passenger rail services in the north over the next decade. Rail journeys across the north will undergo the biggest transformation in decades, with an unprecedented package of improvements that goes far beyond the requirements we set out earlier this year. Together, these operators will oversee a very significant £1.2 billion boost to rail services with brand new, modern trains, more seats, more services and a host of improvements to deliver a modern, 21st-century passenger experience. This will include: the introduction of more than 500 brand new carriages; the removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains from across the north; and space for 40,000 extra passengers at the busiest times.

I turn to the facts surrounding the pause of the trans-Pennine line and, indeed, the essence of this debate. I acknowledge the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland, about the doubt over the date of the 2022 upgrade of the trans-Pennine line. It is true that at a Transport Select Committee hearing in March 2015 the Secretary of State for Transport specifically acknowledged the slippage of the trans-Pennine electrification scheme from 2019 into the early 2020s. There is no doubt about that.

As noble Lords will be aware, on 25 June the Secretary of State announced that important parts of Network Rail’s programme for improving Britain’s railways were costing more and taking longer than planned to deliver. Sir Peter Hendy, who has a proven record of delivering on major transport challenges, was appointed as the new chair of Network Rail. The Secretary of State asked him to replan the whole of Network Rail’s improvement programme for England and Wales. Part of that announcement was that the scheme to electrify the trans-Pennine rail line connecting Manchester to Leeds and York via Huddersfield would be paused. Pausing the trans-Pennine electrification scheme did not mean that the Government’s commitment to delivering the project had faltered or stopped. I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, to that extent.

In fact, the pause gave Sir Peter the opportunity to develop a better plan for this important route—what we are now calling the trans-Pennine route upgrade. On 30 September, work on the trans-Pennine scheme officially resumed. On 25 November, Sir Peter published his more robust plan for the Network Rail enhancement programme, to ensure that every part of Britain benefits from a growing economy. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, raised the importance of freight, which has not been mentioned much in this debate. This plan recognises the importance of the strategic freight network.

Let me be clear that the previous plan for the trans-Pennine line changed only the power supply of trains; it did not include the track work required to make journeys faster or for more frequent trains. The new plan for the full route upgrade will by 2022 make journeys faster, taking up to 15 minutes off today’s journey time between Manchester and York, right across to the east; permit more frequent fast trains—up to six fast trains an hour with limited stops between Manchester and Leeds; reduce crowding by allowing longer trains to run; and improve performance.

The original plan offered poor value for money. It included only electrification of the existing track, which brought limited benefits to passengers. The passenger benefits secured by the new upgrade proposal are expected to make the scheme medium to high value for money. During my briefing I asked in depth what was meant by “value for money”—about which many noble Lords will have more experience than me—but rather than go into that now I am more than happy to write to noble Lords with the information.

The next step in developing the new plan for the trans-Pennine route upgrade is the detailed design and planning of the works over the next two years. We are pushing on with works on the ground this coming January to improve the Calder Valley route from Manchester to Leeds via Rochdale and Bradford. These improvements will initially allow the Calder Valley to be used as a diversionary route for trans-Pennine services normally using the route via Huddersfield while it is closed for major work to enable the six tunnels along the route to accommodate the overhead electric wires. This includes the three-mile long Standedge tunnel, the fifth longest tunnel in the UK, with which I am sure noble Lords are familiar.

Noble Lords will no doubt be aware of the northern powerhouse. Our aim is to rebalance the decades-old north/south divide. Much has been said about this in the House over the past few months. Transforming transport connectivity across the north is integral to this ambition. The noble Lords, Lord Shutt, Lord Scriven and Lord Berkeley, raised the importance of connectivity. Connectivity, as I think I mentioned earlier, is at the heart of the northern powerhouse: joining the major cities of the north to bring together an economic powerhouse to rival London and rebalance the economy. There will be massive investment in rail capacity, delivering 500 new trains of all types—diesel, bi-mode and electric—space, as was mentioned earlier, for 40,000 more passengers, greater frequency and more services. The new franchise is just the start of that. This will start to deliver services to the north and needs to be allowed to be built upon by our plans for the northern powerhouse rail, previously called HS3.

We are working closely with Transport for the North, Network Rail and HS2 Ltd to develop our rail plans for the 2020s and beyond. Noble Lords might not be surprised to learn that we now like to call this the northern powerhouse rail network—there is probably an acronym for that. We have also commissioned HS2 Ltd to look at options for improvements to rail travel to Scotland, which we will consider next year.

I would like to address some of the questions raised. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, acknowledged that we have the elements of a plan for transport in the north but need to do much more work. He is absolutely right. In the Autumn Statement, the Government announced £10 million a year for the life of this Parliament to fund the new Transport for the North organisation. It is tasked with producing a comprehensive northern transport strategy.

The noble Lord, Lord Shutt, talked about what was recently said about HS3 and asked what the Government’s position is. The Government have, jointly with Transport for the North, set out their vision for the transformation of the east-west rail connections across the Pennines. As I mentioned earlier, we now call this the northern powerhouse rail network. With Transport for the North, we have commissioned Network Rail to examine how we can deliver a 30-minute journey time between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, with links onward to Hull, Newcastle, Liverpool and, importantly, Manchester Airport. We will publish the findings of this work early next year.

The noble Lords, Lord Shutt and Lord Scriven, mentioned the electrification of the Calder Valley line and the south trans-Pennine route. The electrification of the Calder Valley line has been identified as a potential scheme by the electrification task force for the control period starting in 2019. Network Rail is currently considering the recommendations and will publish its electrification strategy in the next year for funding consideration by the Government after 2019.

The noble Lord, Lord Shutt, raised the issue of the design of the Leeds HS2 station. The Government have asked Sir David Higgins to look at the options for Leeds and its links to Leeds city station, and to find a scheme that will stand the test of time.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked what the Y aspect of HS2 would look like. The Government and Transport for the North are working very closely with Network Rail and HS2 Ltd to address these very questions.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether, had the National Infrastructure Commission existed before the election, the poor planning of the project—as he put it—would have been avoided. However, he will know only too well that his ex-colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, has been asked to chair the National Infrastructure Commission, with a clear remit to advise on the priorities for transport and, indeed, other infrastructure investment.

I hope that I have made it clear during the debate that this Government are both ambitious and practical about improving transport in the north of England. This is supported by yesterday’s announcement of a comprehensive plan for the railways in the north. I hope I have got it across that we have taken decisive action to ensure the trans-Pennine line electrification goes ahead with a better plan than before. Rail passengers will have a better service that will do far more to support the northern powerhouse economy.

In summary, and to conclude, we already have electrified the oldest inter-city railway between Liverpool and Manchester earlier this year; we have a clear view towards a better scheme, the trans-Pennine route upgrade, to be completed by 2022; we have announced the new trans-Pennine and northern rail franchises, with a transformational programme up to the mid-2020s; and we have taken steps, through establishing Transport for the North, for the north itself to set out a clear view of its transport priorities to complement the opening of HS2 to Manchester and Leeds in the early years of the 2030s. As has been acknowledged, this is just the start and there is much work to be done. Our journey has started, and I thank noble Lords for supporting the project so far.

I welcome much of what the noble Viscount said. Five or six fast trains an hour across the Pennines sounds really good for passengers, but you will not have any stopping trains in that pattern unless you have more tracks. Perhaps the noble Viscount could write to us about the extra tracks that will be necessary to accommodate stopping trains and freight.

I will certainly add that the number of questions that I have not been able to answer. I will include it with the questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.

Sitting suspended.