For the avoidance of doubt, I want to put on the record that I have never actually skinned a cat. I have, however, skinned a large number of rabbits and I imagine the principles are the same.
In answer to the question, the Department is providing over £7 billion for the devolved local growth fund, which will fund over 500 local transport projects by 2020-21. This now also includes £475 million for transformational local transport schemes that are too large for the devolved allocations. We will provide further details in the spring.
I thank the Secretary of State for meeting me and my hon. Friends the Members for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), for Bath (Ben Howlett) and for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall) last week to discuss our campaign for a new junction 18A on the M4. What assessment can the Minister make about the likelihood of the proposed junction? It would support job creation, as well as ensure that reducing traffic congestion in our constituencies actually happens.
The National Infrastructure Commission has called for evidence on future road projects, and one such area is about connecting northern cities. Doncaster and Barnsley have put evidence in to the commission for the trans-Pennine tunnel link. Does the Minister know when the commission will report, and how soon after the report will he have a chance to make up his mind about which projects he will fund?
Such decisions will certainly be made more quickly than they were under the previous Labour Government, who did not get round to investing in infrastructure in the way that we have committed to do. The National Infrastructure Commission is looking at big ticket items or major projects that will be transformational for areas, not least in the north of England, and we are determined to push forward with our northern powerhouse project.
Following on from his answer to my hon. Friend Jack Lopresti, does the Minister agree that a new junction 18A on the M4 would unlock regional growth and jobs, and enable Bath University to open its new vehicle emission testing plant at Emersons Green, which will help to reduce congestion on the windy, narrow roads in Bath and Bristol?
I know that my hon. Friend was at the meeting and made those points to the Secretary of State. It is absolutely vital that we look at how we can unlock growth and jobs through investment in infrastructure, as this Government understand all too well.
Is the Minister able to say whether funding will be available for a very important local transport project, which is to extend the overground line from West Croydon through to Sutton? That would enable passengers who currently have to rely on the shambolic services provided by Southern and Thameslink to use that line instead.
We have record investment both in our conventional rail network and high-speed rail and in the strategic road network, and we are also working with local enterprise partnerships and local authorities on their own local schemes. That is just the sort of scheme that we need to look at closely.
A compelling business case for the third crossing in Lowestoft was submitted to the Minister’s Department just before Christmas. I would be grateful if he advised when a bid can be submitted to the local majors fund so that we can get on and build this bridge and ensure it is completed by 2020?
I had the pleasure of visiting my hon. Friend’s constituency to see that particular issue for myself. I will be in a position to make an announcement in due course.
At the last Transport questions, I asked the Secretary of State if he could look into the issue of excess noise coming from the M60 motorway, which has been made worse as a result of the Denton pinch point scheme. Since then, I have met officers of Highways England on site with the residents. Highways England officers have basically told me that they will not do anything, because the noise affects only eight properties. Will the Minister please meet me to discuss this matter, and will he knock some common sense into Highways England, which, quite frankly, has given me a jobsworth’s answer.
I know that particular communities around the country are affected by noise. Mitigation can often be put in place by using better road surfacing materials or noise barriers, and it may well be that something could be done in that area. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman gets in touch with the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Andrew Jones—he has responsibility for roads—who will no doubt be very happy to meet him.