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Railways: Cheshire

Volume 627: debated on Thursday 13 July 2017

We are investing more than £1 billion in the great north rail project to transform rail travel for passengers across the north of England. In addition, we are supporting local enterprise partnerships and Transport for the North in progressing their priorities for investment in new stations and upgraded infrastructure.

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, and I want to impress on him the urgency of getting the mid-Cheshire rail link and the Manchester airport western link. Our population is expanding, businesses are increasing in size and the local plans will mean tens of thousands of new homes in the area. This cannot be catered for on the local roads and High Speed 2 will not be an answer. Will the Minister commit to support these schemes and come to meet me and the Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association?

First, let me welcome my right hon. Friend back to her place in this House. It is good to see her here again. As a regular commuter to school on the mid-Cheshire rail line, from Cuddington to Hale, I am all too aware of the attractions of reopening the line to Middlewich. I am more than happy to meet her and local campaigners, and it is really important that all local transport authorities and local enterprise partnerships are supportive of such projects. I am sure that in her early days as the Member for Tatton she will work with those groups to make this a reality.

The Mersey-Dee Alliance, which includes the Cheshire West and Chester local authority, has a growth deal bid that includes rail improvements and the Chancellor indicated in his Budget that that might get some support. Can the Minister say whether any money has been given to the Department for Transport, in particular to improve the links between Crewe and Chester and on to north Wales?

We certainly recognise that our decision to take HS2 to Crewe by 2027 opened up a range of possibilities for improving connectivity into north Wales, considering the potential outcomes that passengers might want in terms of improved capacity, improved service frequency and so on. We are looking forward to doing more work on the Crewe hub and seeing what potential is unlocked by development at Crewe. Hopefully that will benefit not just Cheshire but north Wales.

One pound is spent per person on transport infrastructure in Cheshire and the north-west for every £7 spent per person in London and the south-east. Can we have our extra £6 per person, please, to spend on things such as rail and road links to the port of Liverpool, which will help jobs and growth across the north-west?

We are always looking to ensure that we balance our investment across the country over time. I know that during my time on the Select Committee on Transport we looked very carefully at the relevant regional transport spending figures and what they do and do not tell us. We could have a very lengthy answer to this question, but that would displease you, Mr Speaker, so I point out once again the £1 billion investment across the north to improve rail infrastructure, including in the hon. Gentleman’s area.