First, I associate myself with the excellent speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) and for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), two experienced former rail Ministers who set out why they welcome the integrated rail plan while perhaps hoping that it had gone further in some areas. I completely agree with every word of both of their speeches.
One area of the IRP that I really welcome is the continued commitment to the £137 million upgrade to the Hope Valley line running between Manchester and Sheffield. That is important for several reasons. First, the line is one of the worst performing in the country in terms of reliability and punctuality, so this extra capacity to improve reliability and frequency and help freight get out of the quarries and into market is a really positive step, along with, finally, the retirement of the Pacers and their replacement by the new class 195 trains, and the much-needed reforms to rail franchising. That £137 million investment in our railways, combined with the £228 million new Mottram bypass and Glossop spur road, which is due to start construction in 2023, represents the biggest investment in transport infrastructure in the High Peak in my lifetime at least.
On top of that, it is important to ensure that local passengers on the stopping stations on the Hope Valley line, such as Hope, Edale, Bamford, New Mills and Chinley, also benefit from this, and that we link up the bus services from those stations to destinations. That is why the Hope Valley explorer bus pilot is such a positive step forward. I also welcome the commitment to look at electrification of the line.
I also want to talk about HS2, which benefits the High Peak directly. I am very pleased that the western leg and extension is going ahead. That will free up capacity on the Stockport corridor of the west coast main line through to Manchester Piccadilly, a big bonus for those travelling there from places including Buxton, Whaley Bridge, Chapel-en-le-Frith and New Mills.
However, we do need to go further. That is why I continue to campaign for a railway station for Gamesley, one of the most deprived places in the country. It has one of the lowest car ownership rates but atrocious transport links, including a bus service that ends at 5 o’clock in the evening. That desperately needs sorting out. We also need to replace the loss of the 236 bus, which means that at the moment people in Glossop have no connection and no direct bus route through to Tameside Hospital and Ashton College. I really hope that gets fixed too.
Overall, there are lots of really positive things in the integrated rail plan for us to welcome. I would like to see it go further in other places, but the key now is that we get on and deliver it, and that we get spades in the ground as soon as possible. I look forward to the start of the construction of the upgrade to the Hope Valley line within the next few months.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for High Peak (Robert Largan), who made a thoughtful contribution concerning his constituency.
The integrated rail plan for the north is a real disappointment to many people, not least people from Cumbria, the furthest north-west county in England. When we leaf through the 162 pages of that document, we find not a single mention of the county of Cumbria. That is a reminder that when we talk about the north and levelling up the north, it feels to many of us that the rural north—rural communities generally, but specifically those in the far north-west of England—is not thought of and is very much overlooked.
The cancellation of part of HS2 is deeply troubling, but of course the more troubling cancellation is that of Northern Powerhouse Rail. If one understands the north of England, one understands that what we really need is not to get to London a bit quicker, but to have greater capacity and to get from east to west more quickly. That has been overlooked by the Government. It is a betrayal of the north, yes, but more than that it is a betrayal of their lack of understanding of the north, which is more telling.
I want to focus on a couple of things in my community. First, we appreciate that the HS2 line is not going to go further into Lancashire and into Cumbria, but nevertheless the trains will. I am deeply concerned that there are no plans for any of those HS2 trains to stop in the biggest visitor destination in the country apart from London, namely my constituency—the Lake district. That should be put right.
We have a railway line from the main line at Oxenholme that takes us to Windermere—the Lakes line. It is a very short line, and it would be one of the cheapest electrifications in the country if only it were done. Sadly, the Government have cancelled that. I am, however, encouraged by recent conversations with the Rail Minister about the possibility of a passing loop at Burneside, which would give us the opportunity to effectively dual the line again—that was our Beeching cut back in the ’60s and ’70s. Doing that would double the capacity on the Lakes line and massively increase the number of people who could come to the Lake district and not come by car. That would be a huge positive.
It is worth bearing in mind that there are many small things that are huge to us. At Staveley, the first station in the Lake district, there are 42 steps to get up to the station. Friends of mine who have disability issues, are elderly or need to use prams simply cannot use their local station, so I call on the Government to consider very carefully funding access to Staveley station.
We have a world-class visitor destination in the Lake district, with what feels at the moment like a third-class rail connection. That is why I ask, finally, that the Government reconsider the electrification of the line from Oxenholme to Windermere, and of the Furness line from Lancaster to Barrow through my constituency. That would be a positive, carbon-neutral thing to do, and it would be a massive boost to tourism and to local communities. It would be a good, effective use of public money after this disappointment.
I feel privileged to speak in this debate, not simply because this fantastic £96 billion investment in rail is transformational for huge swathes of our country, and not just because we have sped up existing plans by around 15 years to bring real benefits to places such as my constituency of Rushcliffe. No—I feel particularly privileged because this debate gives us the chance to examine the habits and the utterances of that rare species, the Starma chameleon.
For years, the Leader of the Opposition has manned the barricades in opposition to HS2. He said that he opposes HS2
“on cost and on merit: it will not achieve its stated objectives.”—[Official Report, 15 September 2015; Vol. 599, c. 1006.]
He called its impact devastating and said it would cause “wholly unacceptable damage”. However, all of a sudden, the Government have not gone far enough. Suddenly he believes that the plans are
“a second-class option for the North”
and the midlands. If the Leader of the Opposition had had his way, the people of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Birmingham and Sheffield would not have had high-speed rail at all, but perhaps it only matters when it is in his own backyard—hardly prime ministerial.
The integrated rail plan delivered on a commitment to level up regional connectivity by electrifying the midland main line, and electrification work is set to begin in the next phase, before Christmas. These improvements will be welcomed by my constituents, who, because of the plan, will find it a lot easier to commute and undertake other travel by train. Indeed, in my inbox, praise for this plan far outweighs criticism. As the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore) have said—in fact, as has been said repeatedly—the last Labour Government electrified 63 miles of track in 13 years. An ordinary British garden snail moving at a top speed of 0.048 kph would have made more progress.
Colleagues may be surprised to hear that the Leader of the Opposition and I have something in common: we both represent constituencies containing planned HS2 stations, the only difference being that I did not petition against this massive upgrade to, and investment in, rail in my constituency. The integrated rail plan will deliver HS2 faster. It will slash train journey times between London and Nottingham by two thirds, and the journey time from Nottingham to Birmingham to only 26 minutes, which is half an hour faster than envisaged under previous plans. It will deliver HS2 right into the heart of the East Midlands freeport, where we are making a green jobs hub that will create over 60,000 jobs in the region.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate on the disintegrated rail plan. I associate myself with the comments made by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron); I agree wholeheartedly with his points about rail connectivity outside the Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds corridor, and across Lancashire and Cumbria. It so often feels as though that part of the north is forgotten about. Just because we do not have big cities, it does not mean that we do not have jobs and industry, and a need for connectivity. Indeed, we have some very good projects that lend themselves to reasonably cheap electrification, which would help lower the carbon footprint of our public transport system.
I will keep my remarks tightly focused on lines affected in my constituency. I must be clear: if HS2 ever gets as far north as us in Lancashire and Cumbria, which seems like something of a long shot, we cannot have trains not stopping in Lancaster. It is the county town of Lancashire. We have world-class universities and industries that need rail connectivity to the capital, and we need that investment. We cannot keep talking about rail connectivity as meaning getting to London faster. We must also talk about investing in the north and in our communities.
I want to talk about Fleetwood, a town without a railway station, though it has been promised one. In November 2019, the Prime Minister came to Poulton-le-Fylde—and later got it muddled up with Bolton, but we will move on from that. He promised us that its rail line would be reconnected. We are still waiting. We have had £100,000 for a plan, but so far, there is no indication that the line will materialise. I encourage the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the hon. Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson), who is on the Front Bench —a Lancashire guy—to look favourably on Fleetwood, and to work with us and the local community to make that rail line happen.
I finish with some words from my constituents, because all too often the real impact is on constituents’ lives. Mark Waites asks, “Where’s the railway?” That is probably the No. 1 question that I am asked as a local MP—where is our railway in Fleetwood? The track bed is there, but there are no trains running up and down it. Jack Harrison offered me a festive quote to share in the debate:
“Now all we want for Christmas, is our trains back;
And no more empty election yackity yack.”
That sums up the feeling across Fleetwood, and right across the Fylde coast, about the promises that the Government have made, but not delivered on. We have been promised that railway back.
“Now that the Prime Minister knows where Fleetwood is, will he finally say when the railway connection will be reinstated to Poulton and the rest of the country?”
That is a quote from my constituent Tony Johnson. I urge the Minister to look favourably at Lancashire and Cumbria, and to offer us the rail connection that we have been promised.
It is easy for us as Members of Parliament to stand here and say that we want more—that we want it faster, bigger and that we want more money—because that is what we do. No doubt we will draw a line under the integrated rail plan and will come back next week and say that we want more for the next train line and the next plan. We would probably do ourselves a disservice if we did not do that—it is important—but it does not mean that this is not an excellent plan and an excellent investment in our region.
The integrated rail plan commits £12.8 billion of investment to the east midlands. That is probably more than we have had since the M1 was built, I would imagine, if that even cost that amount of money.
I thank my hon. Friend for the intervention. Nottinghamshire’s package is indeed huge and we are very proud of it. It is absolutely right to say that Nottinghamshire is one of the most benefitted places, if that is correct English—it is probably not—from the entire plan. The bulk of that £12.8 billion will connect Nottingham to Birmingham, reducing that journey time to less than half an hour. That will bring the whole of the west midlands into commutable distance for much of Nottingham and south Nottinghamshire, changing the lives of all sorts of people across our county, because it will draw in a whole new swathe of businesses and opportunities for people across the region.
Government have listened to us throughout this discussion. We have heard from Opposition Members about things being cancelled and scrapped, but when we have engaged constructively with the Government and Ministers on this, they have recognised our local priorities and delivered for us. We all understand the need and the wish to connect cities, and connecting Nottingham and Derby to Birmingham is really important. However, when we spoke with Ministers and officials, they understood the economic priorities for the region and the county, the importance of Toton as a hub for job creation and what was said about local residents being able to access jobs. They listened and included that in the plan. I am very grateful for the understanding and really positive engagement that we have had with Government. That is the part that provides the levelling up for my constituents.
I am rather confused by what the hon. Gentleman is saying. On 30 September, he and the leader of Leeds City Council wrote to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to say that levelling up would
“fall at the first hurdle”
without HS2. Less than three months later, the hon. Gentleman is back here saying that he welcomes these plans, which many of us in the midlands and the north see as an utter betrayal.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that I have always petitioned Government for the greatest possible investment in our region. I have always said that HS2 was important, and I continue to believe that that is the case. That is why I am delighted that we are getting a new HS2 connection from Birmingham to Nottingham and that it delivers on the Toton priority that we have been pushing as a county and as a region. And it is why I will continue to push Government over the next 18 months to make sure that we get that certainty between the east midlands and Sheffield, so that we get those journey times and the connectivity. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson) has said many times, many of my residents would rather see a local connection that they can use to access jobs and economic growth, rather than a fast train that flies past their town. Government have listened to our priorities and I am very grateful for that.
The Toton part is what is important for my Mansfield constituents, because it will allow them to get on a new train line—the Maid Marian line or the Robin Hood line that will go through my constituency—that will link Warsop in my constituency to the rail network for the first time in about 50 years, and it will allow them to get a direct train to thousands of new jobs. There will be a new hub for economic growth at Toton and there is already significant interest in investment in that. It will benefit the county and help us to join together the economies of the east midlands, in Derby and Nottingham, and that will be hugely beneficial for the levelling-up agenda.
For me, levelling up means, in short, providing better quality jobs to residents who do not have access to them and making sure that those communities have the skills and transport links to be able to access them and improve their life chances. That is key, and it is a long-term goal. The IRP commits and supports that goal absolutely, because it provides the economic epicentre for us as a county and connects the most disadvantaged communities to it, so I welcome that.
If I have one ask from Government, it is that the IRP also commits to introducing and accelerating a development vehicle for the east midlands—our east midlands development corporation. That is absolutely key to the delivery of those outcomes at Toton and to the rail connections that surround it. We need specifics on that, a process, funding and a way of bringing that in to accelerate growth, so that we can get improved delivery times, which the Minister mentioned.
I absolutely welcome the review, the integrated rail plan and this debate. Notts MPs are here in force to support the plan because it is hugely beneficial to our county and our constituencies, so I commend the Government for bringing it forward.
It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate. I start by offering my wholehearted support to the shadow Transport Secretary, who has made an excellent contribution this afternoon, as have many other hon. Members across the House.
I feel deeply sorry for many communities across the midlands and the north of England, because they have clearly been badly let down by the Government. I know the rail Minister is a decent, hardworking Minister, and I am sure even he is disappointed with this rather thin offering—the way Nottinghamshire has been let down, the way the north-west of England has been let down, the way Bradford and Sheffield have been let down. They have all been badly let down by the Government, I am afraid, and indeed colleagues in London are about to be severely let down with the looming crisis in Transport for London, where the Government are clearly unable to do the decent thing and provide the right level of support to vital transport infrastructure in the capital.
All those things bode very badly for our country at a time when we need more investment and more economic growth. High-speed rail is clearly a driver of significant economic growth and regeneration for major cities and smaller towns, such as my Reading constituency, and offers huge advantages to communities across the country.
I draw the Minister’s attention to a number of points in my own area. In particular, I call for greater Government focus on electrification of the Great Western line to the west of Reading; at present the electric line stops at Newbury, which is clearly not far enough to the west. Indeed, the far south-west is not served by adequate rail infrastructure at this time. The electric line also stops in Cardiff, Wales, and Welsh colleagues have mentioned the serious flaws with that lack of investment in their country.
In addition, the north-south line that connects the south coast of England with the midlands and ultimately Manchester should be a priority for electrification. It is currently a narrow rail corridor with only one line going north and one going south. There are real issues there, but electrification offers greater efficiency, lighter rolling stock, much faster speeds on the railway and a more efficient railway all round. It requires more up-front investment, but it pays back great dividends in future. Many colleagues from Coventry and other midlands cities have mentioned that to me.
I realise time is limited, but I also draw the Minister’s attention to a number of other issues, particularly Reading Green Park station in the neighbouring seat of Reading West, which also serves my constituents who commute to work in the science park at Green Park on the west of Reading. We also need investment in other stations across Berkshire. I draw his attention to the need for the Western Rail Link, another crucial piece of rail infrastructure in the Thames valley that offers wider benefits to people from across the country. I appreciate that he is interested in the project, and I urge him to speak to local councils, myself and other MPs such as the shadow rail Minister on that point.
I realise time is pressing, but I would like to make a couple of other very brief points. Will the Minister also—
Now then—another Opposition day debate and another chance for the Labour party to demonstrate to my constituents in Ashfield and Eastwood how out of touch it is. Most residents in Ashfield, including a lady called Sue Hey, were delighted and breathed a sigh of relief when the integrated rail plan was published a few weeks ago with the news in it that the eastern leg of HS2 had been scrapped.
The eastern leg of HS2 would have come through the edge of my constituency and it would have been a case of, “You can see it, but you can’t use it.” What they can already see in my constituency is the Robin Hood line and the proposed Maid Marian line, which I have lobbied for since being elected to this place. The new Maid Marian line will see rail passenger services returned to the rural parts of Ashfield for the first time in nearly 50 years, with new train stations at Kings Mill Hospital and at Selston. That is what we call real levelling up in the north and midlands.
I was fortunate enough to be quoted by the Prime Minister in the IRP when I pointed out that many of my constituents are more interested in good local transport links than in the eastern leg of HS2. What we now have is a first-class regional package of £12 billion, and the good news is that we have a new batch of Conservative MPs who will ensure that that investment is delivered in Nottinghamshire and the east midlands.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, but I will not get into an argument over regional packages during this debate. That is another conversation.
Let us remember that until a few years ago, the red wall seats like Ashfield had several things in common. They had above-average deprivation, failing town centres, lower life expectancy, poor transport links and lower aspirations; but the main thing that places like Ashfield, Mansfield and Bolsover had in common was Labour MPs and Labour-run councils. What a shocking track record that is. [Interruption.] Rather than chuntering, Opposition Members should be ashamed of the legacy that they have left us new Conservative Members in places like Ashfield. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) might want to concentrate on giving back the £165,000 that he stole from the miners on his own patch. He is an absolute disgrace.
What does this world-class plan mean for the people of Nottinghamshire? It means a high-speed line from the west midlands to the east midlands, providing direct high-speed rail services to Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield, and Sheffield. Journey times from London to Nottingham will be cut by a third to just 57 minutes. Journey times from Sheffield to London will be cut by a quarter, to just 1 hour 27 minutes. Journey times from Nottingham to Birmingham will be cut by two thirds, to just 26 minutes. Even Labour in the north is backing the plan. According to the leader of Rotherham council,
“It is a victory for common sense”.
It is a pity that that lot have no common sense.
This is all good news. The Mayor of Doncaster welcomes the plan, and even the next Labour leader, the Mayor of Manchester, welcomes it. It would appear that the members of the parliamentary Labour party are out of touch with their friends in the midlands and the north, who back the IRP. It is a good job that Conservative MPs are sitting here today speaking out for the Labour voters of yesterday.
Conservative Governments have made me angry before. Indeed, it was the Thatcher Government who first awoke my passion for politics, because I wanted to stand against everything that they stood for, but at least the Thatcher Government were competent. What we have now is a Government who are so incompetent, so inept, so irresponsible and so dishonest that they constantly let down the people who voted for them, and that is what we see in this plan for integrated rail.
We need only look at the manifesto promises that we have had from the Tory Government—all the way back to 2010, when I was first elected and the hon. Member for Ashfield was working for a Labour MP—to see what the Tories have been all about. Throughout that time, we have seen manifestos promising that HS2 would be delivered. We saw those promises in 2010 and we saw them in 2015, and the Tories were also promising to electrify the midland main line in 2017. In 2019 they promised that they would listen to the Oakervee review, a detailed review of HS2, the costs of which were escalating because of the constant delays and ineptitude of this Government in implementing it.
For 11 years HS2 has been Tory party policy, but throughout that period they have managed the policy so ineptly that the costs have continually escalated, and public confidence has not been there. Now they are asking how we can support policies that they spent four general elections and 11 years telling us were the right policies. They stand there and say that this is a major investment, but every major investment in rail that they have announced in the 11 years for which I have been here has never been delivered. They have stood there and announced midland main line electrification, and they have never delivered it. They have stood there and announced HS2, and they have never delivered it. So why on earth should anyone believe that the plan that is on that desk, which will take many years and future Parliaments to be delivered, will ever happen?
The people of Chesterfield have been lied to, and people across the midlands and the north have been lied to, in order to get this shabby Government elected. It is no wonder that people throughout my constituency are finally starting to see what this Government really stand for. It makes me sick, Mr Deputy Speaker.
The Tees Valley has a proud history as the home of our nation’s railway. Starting with George Stephenson’s revolutionary launch of the Stockton to Darlington railway in 1825, our region has been a pioneer in the development of Britain’s rail sector, from steel forged in the furnaces of Redcar for the construction of the London underground to the production of new trains at Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe.
Recent announcements show our commitment to levelling up rail in Teesside. From next year, TransPennine Express services will be extended from Redcar Central to Saltburn, something I have been campaigning on for well over two years. As of next week, LNER will launch a direct service from Middlesbrough to London Kings Cross—a fantastic step, but we need more than just one a day. And the £l00 million redevelopment of Darlington train station creates new platforms, a new station building and the potential for more frequent services on the local network.
The Tees Valley is also playing a huge role in the development of the wider national network, and a key way we can strengthen this role is by committing to using British-made steel from Teesside. HS2 is one of this Government’s biggest infrastructure projects but it has yet to commit to signing the UK steel charter. It is a false economy to continue to bail out our steel industry and not secure its pipeline through procurement rules in the UK. Using UK-sourced steel in the construction of HS2 will help us to secure the future of this vital national industry and support over 1,000 jobs in Redcar alone.
This IRP delivers for the north, but there is more work to do. The Minister will know that I am pushing for the east coast main line to extend its services not just to Middlesbrough but to Redcar to complement our new freeport. Along with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I am supporting the return of passenger services to east Cleveland on the Boulby potash line, if we are able to achieve it. But as we rightly increase services on the Redcar line, such as the TransPennine service to Saltburn, we run the risk of cutting Redcar in half, virtually blockading our level crossings in the town centre. There is no doubt that resolving this roadblock to growth in Redcar will require significant funding, and there is no obvious solution right now, but I seek assurances from the Minister that Redcar town will not be cut off as we grow our network, and that we will seek to minimise the length of time the crossings are down. This is a Government committed to levelling up and transforming Teesside for the better. Thanks to this Government and our Conservative team across our region, we have never been better connected by rail, road and air. Long may it continue.
Last month’s announcement that the Prime Minister would be dropping Northern Powerhouse Rail is one of the biggest broken promises to date from a Government. I stand in solidarity with my colleagues in the north and its people who are rightly outraged by this betrayal, but I watch with particular interest because my constituents in Bedford and Kempston are going through the planning stages of the East West Rail project. More must be done to ensure the public are properly consulted on rail plans, with more honesty from the outset on the pros and cons. Let us be open about the benefits, the costs and the negative impacts so that people can make informed choices, and let us have clear, fair and transparent compensation plans for the people who are impacted.
I have people in my community whose homes are under threat of compulsory purchase, but rail building plans are years away. We await the decision on whether East West Rail and the Department for Transport will accept plans for a four-track option to avoid the demolition of homes. In the meantime, people are trapped in their homes and there is no point in making home improvements or even selling if they need to. The East West Rail plans effectively have a charge on their homes, but despite that, support and advice from EWR is poor. There is no clarity about reasonable compensation, should the worst happen, and they are completely at the mercy of whatever the Government decide. It is not fair or right to treat people like this.
Does my hon. Friend agree that HS2 was supposed to be about connecting the entire country and achieving a fairer and more balanced country as a result? This disintegrated rail plan delivers the opposite by leaving much of the north with inferior rail infrastructure, and this IRP promises continued infrastructure inequality.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
I listened carefully to the electrification plans in the integrated rail plan, and it is the third time we have been promised the electrification of the midland main line. As the electrification in other areas has been scaled back, who knows whether the plan will be followed up?
It is impossible to trust a word this Government say. They have so far refused to answer when I try to pin them down on the electrification of East West Rail. No new infrastructure plan should include the use of diesel trains if we are serious about reaching our net-zero targets. East West Rail must be electrified from day one to avoid the need for diesel locomotives and the future costs of retrofitting. Although it is important to investigate new ways to decarbonise transport, we know that existing technology such as rail electrification works now.
These rail plans that change as they go along make a mockery of the so-called integrated rail plan. It is not integrated if it rolls back previous plans. The scrapping of a major northern rail route should be the final straw for this Government, with their dead, buried and bogus levelling-up agenda.
Listening to the comments of the doomsters on the Opposition Benches who seek to rubbish £96 billion-worth of investment in UK rail, I wondered whether they were reading a different document from me, but I have concluded that they have not read any documents at all.
This integrated rail plan is an absolutely brilliant plan for Warrington South. This plan puts our town and the great people of Warrington at the heart of the north’s rail network, with good connections north and south via the electrified west coast main line and a new passenger line east to west from Liverpool into Yorkshire.
I remember knocking on doors during the 2019 election, when many people said to me that the links between Liverpool and Manchester are critical for towns like Warrington in the north-west of England, and the Government have listened and responded. I thank the Rail Minister, who has worked so hard to ensure that people in my constituency get the benefits they need.
People in Warrington will see faster, more reliable connections to key cities and towns. It is reassuring to see such a strong commitment from this Government, who have listened to the views of local people, for better, faster rail services through Warrington to be delivered more quickly.
Often the biggest criticism we hear from constituents, of all Governments, is that we fail to invest in infrastructure. We need to do this to help our economy and to help local people live better, more effective lives.
I absolutely agree. It is so much more than just infrastructure. This plan has the potential to be a social and economic catalyst for the north of England, bringing businesses, universities and employment markets closer together, changing people’s lives because they will no longer have to take a two-hour journey to Leeds. Under these plans, journey times from Warrington will be slashed to just 50 minutes. Those journey times will also be delivered 10 years faster than previously planned.
The new transport network will act as a catalyst to redevelop areas around our stations. I am looking forward to the investment I know will come to Warrington as a result of the plans for the north of England.
While the Rail Minister is on the Front Bench, I would like to raise with him the more immediate proposed changes to train timetables, which will have significant implications for services through Warrington Central station. Northern and TransPennine have been consulting on the proposed December 2022 timetables, particularly on the CLC line. The plans will see a reduction in services connecting Warrington Central to Manchester from four an hour to three an hour at peak due to the removal of one of the stopping services. Having accepted that more capacity is needed between Warrington and Manchester, Northern is actually taking away services. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we can make sure that those timetable alterations do not impact on people in Warrington?
Finally, I want to draw briefly on the Government’s recent publication on the Union connectivity review. I am pleased that the review recognised that we need to invest more in the west coast main line north of Crewe to properly use HS2, taking advantage of the capacity and journey time benefits. More importantly—I have called for this for some time—I welcome the move to explore more alternatives to the Golborne spur, which is the link that will connect HS2 to the west coast main line. The outcome of the report was clear. There are better ways to link the west coast main line to HS2 than the Golborne spur—a connection that will cut through Warrington, cost £2 billion and deliver very few benefits.
My colleagues and I were extremely disappointed with the decision to scrap Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester. Although the IRP, or, as I like to call it, the bus replacement service, has some things to like —we will be constructive about them where they meet our aims for Yorkshire—the impact of the loss of high-speed rail will have ripple effects through every community in our region.
A lot of people do not fully realise that high-speed rail infrastructure, on dedicated lines, is not solely about getting to London or the midlands more quickly. It is about releasing capacity so that local lines can run effective local services and we can ensure the future of our network, the growth of our region and the environment around us. Northern Powerhouse Rail promised three things: faster services on a dedicated line, new trains and new stations. It promised an all-electric dedicated line between Bradford and Manchester. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah) has already made the point about the short-sightedness of not connecting the people of the UK’s youngest city with the opportunities that that would have brought. Instead, the Government have written in the IRP:
“We will also upgrade and electrify”—
I just want to say that many people here do not understand what “upgrade” means. It does not mean getting something new. If I put a new stereo in my car, it is not a new car; it is just a car with a new stereo in it—
“the line between Leeds and Bradford giving a non-stop journey time which could be as low as 12 minutes.”
That sounds good at first glance, but without the dedicated line, there are knock-on effects that are not printed on the tin.
There are currently two lines that run from Leeds to Bradford. One takes 20 minutes, stopping twice, and the other takes 24 minutes, stopping four times. Both those lines are at maximum frequency. There is no way, on the current line, to meet the 12-minute target to Bradford without sacrificing local services and local stops. I have constituents living between those stops who do not feel that the cancellation of NPR affects them, but when residents who commute to Leeds or Bradford by rail find that their service will be cut to meet the Leeds-Bradford target, what will they do? The answer is probably to increase car use. We have been promised new trains, but new trains are not a replacement for new services. More than that, they will work only on electrified lines, which do not extend beyond Bradford westbound through Huddersfield or northbound to Preston.
Absolutely. Only NPR will get people on those routes on to the train.
Most concerning is the broken promise of new stations in Leeds and in Bradford. Faster and more regular services require more platform space, and Leeds is already at capacity. Without extra capacity, will my constituents who use the Harrogate line have their services cut? I would like the rail Minister to answer that question. On the electrification of the Harrogate line, the recent Network Rail transport decarbonisation network strategy includes a recommendation for electrification between Leeds and Harrogate. Will that come forward?
On Northern Powerhouse Rail, we have been sold a pup, but I also want to address the problem of getting to a train station in the first place. Otley in my constituency was cut from the train line by Beeching. Our Mayor, Tracy Brabin, has an ambitious and achievable plan for a mass transit system to reach Otley, linking it to Leeds and Bradford, where we thought it would join NPR. The Government committed to that scheme in their manifesto in 2019. The Prime Minister said in this Chamber:
“We will remedy the scandal that Leeds is the largest city in western Europe without light rail or a metro.”—[Official Report, 19 December 2019; Vol. 669, c. 47.
However, trams are built not on the hopes and dreams of a whimsical Prime Minister, but on cold, hard cash.
The Prime Minister has failed to show us the money. All the Government have committed to is £200 million, of which they have said £100 million should be used to work out how to get HS2 trains from Sheffield to Leeds—something that the DFT, not the West Yorkshire metro Mayor, should be doing—and that falls well short of the £3 billion required for us to build the tram scheme. The people of West Yorkshire have been short-changed for far too long. What the Prime Minister has offered is not levelling up, but pushing us down a hill. He is indeed northern infrastructure’s grand old duke of York, marching us up to the top of the hill and right back down again.
I always welcome the opportunity to discuss improvements to our rail system on behalf of my constituents in Keighley and Ilkley.
First, I welcome the work of this Conservative Government and previous Conservative Governments to make positive changes to rail connections and rail improvements in the north and, indeed, throughout the whole country. The Opposition gloss over the fact that in 13 years a Labour Government did absolutely nothing to improve opportunities for my constituents in Keighley to travel by rail. It is worth noting that in the Blair and Brown years, the Labour Government electrified only 63 miles. In 13 years, that is 4.8 miles a year.
Earlier, the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), asked what the Conservatives have done for my constituents. Let me tell her: constituents travelling from Ilkley or Ben Rhydding, or from Steeton or Keighley, either to Bradford or to Leeds, do so on an electrified line that was put in under the Major Conservative Government in 1994. Since 2010, the Conservatives have electrified 1,500 miles of line, and here we are again, under the Johnson Conservative Government, seeing another huge boost in the shape of the £96 billion package to improve rail infrastructure across the north and throughout the rest of the country, benefiting most of my colleagues.
But that is where it stops for me. As I have said previously in the House, I feel very strongly about and am deeply disappointed by the recent rail announcements in respect of improvements for the Bradford district. In my view, the announcements completely short-change the Bradford district. The rail Minister has made several announcements about reducing the travel time between Leeds and Bradford, but the crucial thing for unlocking economic potential for Keighley and the wider Bradford district is better linkage from Bradford across to Manchester, thereby opening up better east-west links.
Does the hon. Member agree that although the Secretary of State came to the House and tried to sell us the idea that the Government will reduce the time of a journey from Leeds to Bradford from 20-something minutes to 12 minutes—or whatever it is—that journey could be done in seven minutes? The journey from Bradford to Manchester, which is currently quicker in a car so increases car usage, could be done in less than 20 minutes. The Government are wrapping up something that is actually a very hollow promise, are they not?
I was pleased to sign a joint letter to the rail Minister with the hon. Lady, the hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) and my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) to urge the Government to look into getting better transport connectivity between Leeds and Manchester, with a stop in Bradford, because that is the only mechanism to drive real economic prosperity and economic opportunities for my constituents in Keighley.
My constituency is only 43 miles away from Manchester. I want to make the strong case for a resident who lives in Keighley to have the opportunity to get quickly to Manchester so that they can commute there to work on a daily basis, if needs be. Likewise, that would open up economic opportunity between Manchester and Keighley. In my view, that can be done only by having a proper stop in the Bradford district to improve connectivity.
In the short time I have remaining, I wish to make the case, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) has, for opening up the Skipton to Colne line. Better connectivity to east Lancashire would dramatically increase the economic opportunities for many of my constituents in Keighley and would make sure we can really drive economic prosperity in Keighley.
I rise in support of the motion in the name of Her Majesty’s Opposition.
My constituency has minimal rail infrastructure. The reopening of Horden train station was a cause for celebration. It promised new opportunities for employment, education and leisure through making the major towns and cities in the north-east more accessible to people living in my constituency in east Durham.
We do not enjoy the embarrassment of riches in public transport that we see in London and, apparently, in some other constituencies, where missing a tube or a bus is not a major issue, with another service arriving just minutes later.
Seaham and Horden in my constituency are served by one train an hour, normally consisting of two carriages. For my constituents who are seeking to attend a hospital appointment, a university or college class, getting to work, or simply meeting friends, the reliability of the train has a considerable impact on employment prospects or educational success. To increase capacity and frequency, we are not talking about multi-billion pound schemes. If there were any truth in the levelling-up rhetoric, I would not be on my feet here tonight, pressing the Government for additional transport options, more resources and more frequent services.
I want to highlight a particular case for the Minister, who is a good man, about what the consequences are when we have severe overcrowding, I will, if I may, read out a letter that I have received, relaying the experience of a constituent. It is from the mother of Harry, an 11-year-old boy. This is what she said:
“Harry, 11, was standing squashed with his Dad. He started to go pale and felt sick. He then suddenly collapsed, went limp, eyes rolled back and he passed out. We pulled the emergency stop button. After about a minute, he came round, but was weak, limp and only just responding. There was no space for him to lie down”—
the train was so crammed—
“no space for me to even get to him. No space for the conductor to get to him to see if he needed medical help. The windows were closed. It was hot, airless, and people were packed to absolute capacity. What does it take for the train companies to understand that packing trains full to above safe capacity is a fatality waiting to happen. The conductors were encouraging people to get on an already dangerously full train.”
I invite the Minister to understand our experience in east Durham with these overcrowded crushes, which are a clear risk to health and safety.
We will move on to the wind-ups now, but Rachael Maskell would have been next. Tan, you can have a bit more time, but would you allow her to intervene on you? I know that this is an unusual request, but I hope that you will think kindly of her when she decides to intervene.
Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker, and, of course, how could I not agree to your demand? If I want to speak in future debates, I cannot but obey your request as a command.
It is an absolute honour, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition, to respond to this debate on rail investment and Government betrayals. Indeed, from the moment I became a shadow Minister for railways, I have been waiting patiently—impatiently, in fact—like an overly keen train spotter, for the integrated rail plan, but what a complete let-down. For well over a year, I have received so many assurances that it would be published soon, very soon, that I had taken to calling it the mythical rail plan, but perhaps the Minister was simply too busy picking his secret Santa gift for the Downing Street party to finish it in time last year. Perhaps I can recommend that his secret Santa splashes out on a dictionary for him this year, because there are a few words around this rail plan that Ministers may wish to look at. “Soon” is certainly one of them, but “promise”, “commitment” and “betrayal” are a few other words that come to mind, having now seen the Government’s disintegrated rail plan, as so eloquently highlighted by so many hon. Members.
I thank the many right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed today, and who share the passion that is so clearly felt by their constituents and many others across our country regarding the Government’s abysmal plans for our rail network. They have spoken so eloquently and powerfully—none more so than my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), who gave a detailed exposé of the Government’s betrayal. Hon. Members’ comments about disappointment in the lack of Government ambition are echoed by many of those affected.
The hon. Member for Redcar (Jacob Young) has made many interventions and has spoken. As directed by you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am looking to take interventions, within the limited time, from those individuals who have not yet spoken, including my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins).
My hon. Friend is talking passionately about our constituents’ enthusiasm for investment in rail. Does he agree that rail investment needs to be integrated through rail and infrastructure, so that stations that are decrepit, such as Luton station, get the investment they need so that they can be rebuilt to be fit for the 21st century?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point and is a passionate exponent of what is required for her constituency. Indeed, other hon. Members have highlighted the dilapidated state of many stations and other infrastructure.
Given that the Secretary of State is keen on quotes from northern leaders and industry experts, I thought I would share some so that he and the Minister can become familiar with theirs views and are left in no doubt. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers noted that the Government’s decisions are
“driving decline in our railways”.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association and Unite unions were of a similar view, given the huge loss of well-paid, unionised jobs, and the loss of skills and apprenticeships thereafter.
The metro Mayor of Liverpool, Steve Rotheram, whom the Secretary of State quoted, said that the Government are just offering “scraps off the table”. ASLEF aptly described the plans as “levelling down”. Transport for the North called them “woefully inadequate”. The Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, who has been quoted by Government Members on many occasions, observed that instead of NPR, the north just got PR. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, headed up by the Government’s old friend, the former Chancellor, George Osborne, said that these plans disappointed “virtually everybody”.
When six major newspapers in the north of England all united to run the same powerful front page, calling on the Government simply to deliver what they promised on rail—nothing more, nothing less; just what they promised—it should have been a wake-up call to Ministers that they cannot substitute proper investment with the usual Government spin, so why did the Department so blatantly ignore those who actually live, work and travel in the north and midlands when pulling these proposals together? Were the years spent compiling this and other reports not enough to meet stakeholders and listen to their suggestions, or did Ministers simply ignore them?
The scale of the Government’s under-delivery on promises would be surprising if we had not been paying close attention to their past record. Just last year, the Minister noted:
“The Government recognise the importance of improving rail connectivity to Bradford—for the local community, for passengers and for the regeneration opportunities that it could bring.”—[Official Report, 30 June 2021; Vol. 698, c. 72WH.]
Yet, when it comes to actioning this plan, Bradford has been left high and dry—as has been eloquently highlighted by Members from Bradford and Yorkshire, and indeed by the West Yorkshire Mayor, the wonderful Tracy Brabin —with no new high-speed connection between Bradford and Leeds and no new station, despite it being a city that houses more than half a million people. It has the UK’s worst rail connections for a city of such stature.
And then there is the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds. I have simply lost count of the number of times the Government have assured the House, myself—for over a year, from that Dispatch Box—and the public that this will go ahead “in full”. I am therefore sure that the people of Chesterfield, Sheffield and Leeds were surprised, to put it mildly, to find out that they would no longer be connected by HS2. Northern Powerhouse Rail may as well have been cancelled under Government plans, with a half-baked version delivering only for a select few going ahead, despite being promised over 60 times by the Government. Why would the British people believe a single word that this Government say?
In February 2020 the Prime Minister told the House, with regard to HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, that
“both are needed and both will be built as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible.”—[Official Report, 11 February 2020; Vol. 671, c. 713.]
So why has he gone back on his word once again? By which date—perhaps the Minister could answer this—had the Government decided to betray the investment promises that they made? Was it before the IRP was published recently, or was it while they were still making commitments to this House that plans would be delivered in full? Did they ever intend to keep their word? We cannot continue to fail rail passengers due to Government incompetence. Under-delivering on our rail network will have consequences for decades to come. Transport has lasting consequences for the way that people live their lives—the types of jobs that they are able to do, the holidays that they take, and the areas that they choose to live in. Breaking promises on such fundamental parts of our society is truly unforgivable.
This Government have become famous for their U-turns, so I ask the Minister: will the Government U-turn one more time to benefit our northern towns and cities? Will he take the opportunity today to reverse his decision to scale back plans for the north and instead keep the commitments that the Government have regularly promised? Labour Members know that breaking promises on such fundamental issues, especially to communities crying out for proper investment, is unforgivable. Will he do the right thing today, because people will not settle for crumbs? They deserve the full deal.
I thank everybody who has spoken for their important contributions to this debate. As a northern MP myself, I know this is an issue of huge importance to all our local communities.
Despite the protestations of Labour Members, I know that our constituents will not mind which technical scheme we have gone for; what they will care about is the outcomes when those schemes are delivered: the faster and more reliable services that they will get; the ease and convenience with which they will be able to move not just up and down this country but across it; and crucially, the speed with which these investments will be delivered—not decades in the future but getting started on that work right now, this very month. I understand that there are enormously strong feelings about rail investment across the country, and it is important that we ensure that all areas get a fair deal that enables them to grow their local economies and support employment opportunities. That has been demonstrated in both the response to the integrated rail plan and throughout this debate. Let me therefore address a number of the points that were made.
The SNP spokesman, the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands), lamented that the integrated rail plan lacked ambition and talked about what was going on in Denmark. I remind him that under our plans HS2 will remain the largest infrastructure project in Europe, with over 20,000 people already employed, increasing to 34,000 people at peak construction. Our plans will reduce the current journey time from Glasgow to London by 49 minutes, and from Edinburgh to London by 42 minutes. These plans are good for Scotland and good for the Union.
My hon. Friend tempts me. As he knows, HS2 has already awarded work to 2,200 businesses across the United Kingdom, 97% of which are British-registered firms. There are many people already supplying British steel but I am keen for us to do even more and support even more businesses in Redcar.
My hon. Friends the Members for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) and for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), both distinguished former rail Ministers, welcomed the plans and set out how they build on the £29 billion already invested in transport across the north since 2010. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough reminded us of the £360 million to introduce contactless tap in, tap out ticketing to hundreds more stations outside London and the south-east, which will bring huge benefits to travellers across the north.
The right hon. Member for Knowsley (Sir George Howarth) talked about the impact on Liverpool city region and asked if I would meet the Mayor, Steve Rotheram. I am happy to commit to continuing to work with the Mayor and local stakeholders, but I remind the right hon. Gentleman that under these plans, the journey time from Manchester to Liverpool will fall from 50 minutes to 35 minutes and we will see the number of trains doubled.
The Minister will know that York is a formidable rail city, bursting with expert planners and engineers. They were astounded by the rail plan, not least because it is about economic development in Yorkshire and the north-east, as well as the rest of the north. Will he therefore go back and rethink that plan so that the north-east and Yorkshire can see the benefits that elsewhere in the country gets? Ultimately, the expertise needs to be put back on the rail lines, which our city can offer.
I thank the hon. Lady for her point. We have met in her constituency to discuss various proposals, and she knows that the east coast main line upgrade will benefit York. The core Northern Powerhouse network being built from York all the way to Liverpool will benefit her constituents, so I believe that this plan has significant benefits for her constituents.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mark Eastwood) highlighted the significant benefits to Dewsbury, Mirfield and Huddersfield, which are well beyond anything proposed under the previous plans, including electrification and major station improvements. I look forward to visiting his constituency soon.
The Minister has just mentioned my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury. Continuing on from Dewsbury and Huddersfield, there is huge investment going into stations in Slaithwaite and Marsden and into better connectivity and improving accessibility for those with disabilities.
I thank my hon. Friend for that point. As he recognises, these plans deliver far more for towns on the existing railway line than was ever previously proposed, and therefore he will see significant investment in all the stations on his line.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Dr Wallis) reminded us of some of the benefits of HS2 to Wales, with passengers from south Wales able to access HS2 services via Birmingham Curzon Street and passengers from north Wales becoming within two hours 15 minutes of London. As he knows, the current control period, control period 6, has seen a record £2 billion revenue settlement for Network Rail in Wales.
The hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) called for more electrification. I agree with her. That is why I am proud that since 2010 we have electrified 1,221 miles of track, compared with just 63 miles under the 13 years of the last Labour Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (James Grundy) welcomed the investment in Golborne station and the Castlefield corridor improvements, while also again putting on record the concerns of his constituents about the Golborne spur. Thanks to my hon. Friend’s campaigning, and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter), those concerns have been heard loud and clear, and they know we are currently reflecting on alternatives.
The hon. Member for Preston (Sir Mark Hendrick) complained about the plans, even though for his constituency the current plans are pretty much the same as the previous plans. We will get on with our plans to deliver HS2 all the way into Manchester, reducing journey times from Preston to London from 128 minutes down to 78 minutes once HS2 is operational.
My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Darren Henry) has been a tireless champion of his constituents, and I am pleased to have visited Toton with him.
That this House recognises the importance of rail investment to the UK economy and, in particular, the delivery of new lines linking Yorkshire, the North West, North East and Midlands; regrets the Government’s decision not to deliver new high speed investment, Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, and electrification covering communities across the North and Midlands; calls on the Government to deliver the new northern rail investment promised by the Prime Minister in full; and further calls on the Secretary of State for Transport to update the House in person before January 2022 on his Department’s benefit cost ratio analysis for the revised HS2 line.
On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have been contacted by a constituent who has incurable secondary breast cancer. She has planned a Christmas holiday to Spain with her family, including her 12-year-old and 15-year-old children. The UK Government recommend a single dose of vaccine for over-15s which her daughter has had, but the Spanish Government are now saying that over-12s are to have two doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a one-dose vaccine. My constituent is very concerned that her daughter could be prevented from entering Spain and joining them on their holiday. She is desperately seeking clarification on this matter, as it is not on the Government website or indeed that of the airline, and they are due to travel next Thursday. Given this, I seek your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker, on how to get a full response from the Foreign Office on what she can expect and how she can ensure her family can make travel plans before Christmas.
I thank the hon. Member for giving me notice of the point of order on behalf of her constituents. It is important that Ministers give timely answers to Members, particularly when they raise issues of an urgent nature. Those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the point raised and I hope they will relay it back, but there will be other opportunities, including business questions tomorrow.