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Northern Powerhouse Rail

Volume 624: debated on Thursday 30 March 2017

2. What the timetable is for Transport for the North to submit its proposals for Northern Powerhouse Rail. (909572)

As I am sure the hon. Lady is aware, Northern Powerhouse Rail will provide faster and more frequent rail services across the region. We have committed £60 million to developing the scheme and we are working closely with Transport for the North on potential route options and their costs and benefits. That analysis is due to arrive with us by the end of 2017.

I am sure the Minister will be aware that Bradford has launched the “Next Stop Bradford” campaign to secure a High Speed 3 station in our city centre. Will the Minister join me in supporting a Northern Powerhouse Rail station in Bradford city centre and thereby support the huge £1.3 billion boost to the northern powerhouse economy that the new station promises?

I am indeed aware of Bradford’s campaign. The leader of the council has already written to me, and I was grateful for that communication. It is important to stress that Northern Powerhouse Rail is about linking not just the major cities in the north but some of the smaller towns and cities where connectivity can be significantly improved.

Is the Minister aware of the economic study on east-west trans-Pennine connectivity that was recently published on behalf of the Lancashire and Yorkshire local enterprise partnerships? The report finds that taking steps such as reopening the Skipton to Colne rail route would boost economic prosperity across the north, but that a failure to improve connectivity from east to west would

“critically restrict the growth potential of the Pennine Corridor economy—a key driver of the Northern Powerhouse”.

My hon. Friend is entirely correct to point to the importance of trans-Pennine links, be they road or rail. I am very familiar, as I am sure he is, with the Skipton to Colne campaign and the Skipton East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership. I wish it well, and I hope that it features strongly on all the local growth fund bids that come in to the Department.

Transport for the North has great potential to transform the northern economies, but what powers will it actually have? When will it become a statutory body, and will it have the same powers as Transport for London?

We continue to consider carefully what powers we want to give to Transport for the North. I very much hope that it will be placed on a statutory basis in the future, and we will make an announcement in due course. There is an awful lot we can do together with Transport for the North even now, on matters such as smart ticketing and infrastructure improvements. Transport for the North is a great success already, whatever its basis.

There can be no doubt that the Government and Transport for the North have a plethora of plans, strategies and proposals. They are all wonderful, but what mechanisms are in place to ensure that all these plans are turned into some real action?

My hon. Friend is right to identify the immense creativity that exists in the north of England in terms of recommending potential new pieces of infrastructure, but it is vital to remember that there is only a finite amount of money at any one time. That is why in the Department, in the devolved Administrations and in Transport for the North, we have very complicated and, I think, sensible ways to judge the impact of any infrastructure and calculate the benefit-cost ratio.