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Transport Infrastructure

Volume 644: debated on Thursday 5 July 2018

The Government are investing record sums to deliver the transport infrastructure that Britain needs. The Department for Transport’s annual capital spending will more than double over this decade, from £8 billion in 2009-10 to £17 billion in 2019-20. This money will deliver our ambitious five-year investment plan for the rail and strategic road networks, take forward delivery of High Speed 2, and help improve air quality.

First, I am going to use my position to wish all staff in the NHS a very happy 70th birthday.

The Secretary of State makes the classic mistake of thinking infrastructure is just steel and concrete, but the airspace routes above the UK were designed in the ’60s and simply cannot cope with the 2.3 million planes that use them every year. The NATS air traffic centre at Prestwick has invested in the technology to allow more direct planning and shorter routes and to save fuel and reduce noise. When will the Government actually reform the airspace?

I echo the hon. Lady’s comments about the NHS: I am looking forward this afternoon to travelling out with my local ambulance service to see the work of NHS staff, which, as she rightly says, is first rate.

As you will be aware, Mr Speaker, we have already launched the process of airspace reform in this country. We are currently depending on technology that is decades old; it is not now fit for purpose and we need to move to a world that is controlled by state-of-the-art digital technology. That will create the capacity we need, and a rolling programme is planned for the coming years of modernisation of our airspace across the UK.

A second entrance at Putney station would not only ease congestion, but would finally give connectivity with East Putney tube station. This project is supported financially by Wandsworth Council. Can the Secretary of State, following our recent meeting, look carefully at what support his Department can give this scheme so it can finally get the go-ahead?

I regard that scheme as a quick win that could make a real difference to passengers. I have asked my officials to consider it carefully, and I will carry on talking about it with my right hon. Friend. I am sympathetic towards the potential benefits of creating a better interchange between the underground and the mainline railway in her constituency.

The Transport Secretary mentioned technology. Since the Government have devolved funding for speed cameras to local police forces, cameras have been switched off due to policing cuts. Will the Government reconsider that? There have been some severe accidents on the A449 Stafford Road in my constituency, including a fatality, and we need new speed cameras on that route.

I will absolutely take a look at that issue. We try to devolve responsibility for such things, but I will look carefully at that. We should always be mindful of stretches of road where there have been fatalities.

I am extremely grateful to the Secretary of State for his interest in the Shipley eastern bypass and for coming to visit my constituency to see the route at first hand. Will he update me, the House and my constituents on the progress being made towards finally introducing a bypass?

My officials are currently considering what it would take to move the project forwards, and I have had discussions with the combined authority. The potential route sits alongside a growth area in West Yorkshire, so I am personally taking an interest in the scheme, which is now subject to careful assessment.

In recent weeks we have seen endless delays, cancellations across the north and a report from the Select Committee on Transport that confirmed a bias against northern regions in rail investment decisions, and we now hear reports that the trans-Pennine electrification will be scrapped altogether. Will the Secretary of State now respond properly to the One North campaign and commit to giving Transport for the North the full powers and funding it needs to deliver the necessary changes?

I am afraid that this is a total misnomer. First, the part of the country that will receive the highest Government spending per head on transport over the next five years is the north-west. Spending is higher per head of population across the north than it is in the south. Secondly, as I have already announced, we will start the £3 billion trans-Pennine upgrade next spring, which will substantially rebuild the railway line between Manchester, Leeds and York and deliver much better services to passengers. It is long overdue.

Network Rail plays a key role in delivering rail infrastructure investment projects both north and south of the border. Given that many of the Secretary of State’s colleagues think that Network Rail is too big, that he often gives it a kicking himself and that the Scottish Government have responsibility for the strategic delivery of rail north of the border, will he at last take steps to devolve Network Rail fully to the Scottish Government?

The hon. Gentleman keeps arguing for that, but it was not recommended by the commission that examined what powers the Scottish Government should have. My advice to the Scottish Government is to try to use the powers they have well rather than ask for more.

I urge my right hon. Friend to look favourably upon applications for investment in smaller schemes on de-trunked roads, such as the A350 and the C13 in my constituency. They are vital arteries for growing the economy in Dorset and, indeed, the wider south-west.

De-trunked roads are an important priority for me. We are shaping our plans to introduce the major road network and to start making funds available for things such as bypasses on roads that were de-trunked 20 or 30 years ago and where there is a pressing need for improvement.