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Transport Infrastructure Investment

Volume 627: debated on Thursday 13 July 2017

6. What steps he is taking to balance the distribution of transport infrastructure investment between London and other regions. (900456)

It is always a delight to perform under your benevolent gaze, Mr Speaker. The industrial strategy Green Paper set out the Government’s commitment to take account of the balance of spending per head on infrastructure between different regions. The hon. Lady will be familiar with the transport investment strategy—published just last week—which sets out the Government’s priorities for transport investment, supporting growth right across the country. I assure her that how projects contribute to creating a more balanced economy will in future be weighed, measured and valued in a way that it has never been before.

But we know that London gets 10 times the investment that Yorkshire and the Humber does. While Crossrail 2 has already been earmarked for £27 billion, the rail electrification to Hull has been scrapped by Transport Ministers, the A63 upgrade has been delayed, and the Hull chamber of commerce is concerned about the downgrading of TransPennine services. In Hull, we pay our taxes and we pay higher fares, so when are we going to get a fair deal on transport investment?

The hon. Lady is being untypically churlish—[Interruption.] No, untypically churlish. The Government have committed to build the infrastructure to support regional growth. She knows that that is why we are increasing Government infrastructure investment by 50% over the next four years, supporting growth and jobs right across the country. That includes the £15 billion we committed to the first road investment strategy, which she will know involves schemes right across the country—south, east, west and north. But let me find common ground with her; she is right that her part of the country deserves its place in the sun, which is why we must rebalance our investment to reflect local needs such as hers.

Bradford is one of the biggest cities in the country and, in the last Parliament, the Government were very supportive of it being a stop on Northern Powerhouse Rail. Is it the Government’s position that they will make sure that the investment is provided to ensure that Bradford is a stop on Northern Powerhouse Rail?

My hon. Friend has made that point previously to champion the cause and interests of people in Bradford. We are waiting for proposals from Transport for the North. I have no doubt that he will lobby for and so contribute to those proposals, and that he will make his case to Transport for the North. We will consider the proposals when we get them, but I fully understand the strength of his argument.

22. While I do not dispute the need for investment in transport infrastructure across the country, the fact remains that promised investment in London, such as for additional carriages on Southeastern services, has yet to materialise. The rail Minister, the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), said on 30 March that it will be happening “very soon”. Can we have an update? (900475)

The rail Minister has made it a priority, and when he makes things a priority, they get done.

The Minister spoke about places in the sun a minute ago, and I am sure he was thinking of Cleethorpes. As he knows from his recent visit to my constituency, one of the urgent priorities is the resurfacing of the A180 to remove the concrete surfaces. Does the Department have any plans that will help that project? As he was unable to answer Question 3, perhaps he could develop the role of apprentices in major schemes.

I am always willing to do that, as you know, Mr Speaker.

I was pleased to visit the Cleethorpes constituency to unveil the new road we built as part of our road investment strategy. My hon. Friend is right, however, that there is a challenge associated with the nearby road surface. I considered that at the time, and the Secretary of State has asked us to look at these things in greater detail. I can assure my hon. Friend that ensuring roads are fit for purpose, as well as investing in new roads, is at the heart of all we do.

The east coast main line between London and the north is in urgent need of infrastructure investment to end the disruption caused by failures of the antique overhead power lines. How much does the Minister expect Virgin Trains East Coast to contribute to that?

The east coast main line is the line I use regularly, and I am extremely familiar with the quality of that service. The hon. Lady will know that the new express trains we will be using on that main line by the end of 2018 will offer greater capacity, reduced journey times and more reliable services.

So not only does the Minister not answer my question but he does not know the amount the operator has to contribute, yet he is about to dig into the back pockets of taxpayers to bail out the Stagecoach-Virgin consortium when, just two years ago, the Government took East Coast out of public ownership after returning £1 billion—£1 billion!—to the Treasury. How much will the Virgin Trains East Coast contract retrofit cost the taxpayer? Does he not draw the same conclusion as the Labour party that, as we pay for private and make savings from public rail, only a publicly owned rail franchise can operate in the public interest?

My goodness, Mr Speaker. This is like a journey to a past that never happened. I remember one of British Rail’s last, and perhaps most poignant, slogans: “We’re getting there”. Well, getting there is a pretty fundamental requirement of any journey. Could there be a less ambitious objective than merely getting there? That is what nationalised railways were like—we all remember them. They were a disaster. The cost of renationalising the railways in the way the hon. Lady recommends would be at least £19 billion, which is £19 billion that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) and others want to spend on all these other schemes.

Our only surprise is that neither Yeats nor Samuel Taylor Coleridge featured in the answer provided by the right hon. Gentleman.