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Transport Connectivity

Volume 690: debated on Tuesday 9 March 2021

Improving transport connectivity across the UK is central to the Government’s levelling up agenda, and local residents across the UK will benefit from upgrades to infrastructure that improve everyday life as a result of the launch of the £4.8 billion levelling up fund. The Government have also maintained their commitment to already announced transport investment through the transforming cities fund and the roads investment strategy, and Budget 2021 confirmed capacity funding allocations for the £4.2 billion of intra-city transport settlements, so that the city regions receiving settlements can develop investment-ready transport plans to deliver on local priorities.

Politicians of all parties have been promising to build the Mottram bypass for more than 50 years. I am really pleased that Highways England and Balfour Beatty recently signed a contract to build the bypass, and a formal consultation has now been carried out on the detailed proposals, meaning that we are closer than we have ever been before to finally getting it built. Can the Minister assure me that the Government remain committed to building the bypass as soon as possible? The people of Glossop and Hadfield have waited long enough.

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He has been a vociferous supporter of this scheme and I can happily confirm that the Government remain committed to upgrading the A57 so as to improve connectivity between Manchester and Sheffield. The development consent order is on track to be submitted shortly and construction is expected to start in early 2023.

Investing in improved transport infrastructure is well recognised by this Government as a necessity for turbocharging our economy and levelling up. Beautiful Hastings and Rye has some of the most antiquated road and rail infrastructure in the country, which discourages new businesses from locating there and inhibits economic growth. Network Rail is currently finalising a strategic business case for HS1. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that funding will be available to finance such a vital project?

My hon. Friend will be aware that the strategic outline business case for the Kent and East Sussex coastal connectivity scheme includes proposals to extend HS1 services from Ashford International to Hastings and Rye. It is currently being taken forward by Network Rail and is due to be submitted to the Department for Transport in April 2021. It will then be reviewed by the Department and by stakeholders in Kent and East Sussex County Councils.

Improving road and rail connections across all four nations of the UK will improve the quality of life for our communities and I am really looking forward to seeing the Hendy review this summer. However, there is no doubt that it will take the aviation sector longer than most to recover from the crisis. Taxes, including air passenger duty, need urgent reform to help the industry to get back on its feet. What plans does the Treasury have to remove the double charging of domestic air passenger duty, a call backed by regional airports including Exeter in my constituency and Newquay, which particularly rely on domestic flights to all corners of the United Kingdom?

The Treasury is committed to consulting on aviation tax reform. As part of that, we will consider the APD treatment of domestic flights. Unfortunately, the consultation has been delayed in recognition of the rather challenging circumstances that the aviation industry is currently facing, but we will update the House on this in due course.

Car ownership in Maltby in Rother Valley is lower than the national average and buses provide a vital lifeline. However, our services are severely lacking. You cannot get a direct bus between Maltby, my largest town, and Dinnington, my second largest town and, if you do take public transport, that five-mile journey takes almost an hour. What fiscal steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that communities in Rother Valley are linked up, so that those without cars have the same opportunities to be economically active, to get to and from jobs and even to go shopping as those with cars?

It is no secret that bus services are close to the Prime Minister’s heart. The Government have committed to improving bus services and since the start of the pandemic have supported operators with more than £1 billion of funding, as well as with £120 million at the spending review for the delivery of new zero emission buses. The national bus strategy is due to be published soon and will start to set out this wider ambition. I am also pleased to note that Budget 2020 allocated £166 million to the Sheffield city region from the transforming cities fund to support local transport investment, including bus infrastructure.

To deliver transport connectivity in every part of the United Kingdom, we need long-term investment in infrastructure but, staggeringly, the OBR analysis reveals that the Chancellor has cut capital investment plans by half a billion pounds since last March. The Budget also made no mention of Northern Powerhouse Rail and slashed the Transport for the North budget by 40%. Can the Minister explain why the reality of the Budget on infrastructure investment is so far from this Government’s rhetoric?

I do not recognise the figures the hon. Lady has used at all. The facts are that this Government published the “National Infrastructure Strategy” in November, which set out plans for £300 billion-worth of public investment over the next few years, as well as supporting £300 billion of private investment. Since then, the Chancellor has announced the new UK infrastructure bank, which will further support the development of infrastructure and levelling up, and the development of our green infrastructure across the UK.