Rail Improvements: Devon and the South-west

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th January 2018.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Transport), Minister of State (London)

We are investing more than £400 million in the rail network in the south-west. This includes a fleet of brand-new trains for services to Devon and Cornwall, which will enter service later this year, transforming journeys for passengers. We are continuing to work with Network Rail and the Peninsula Rail Task Force to explore the potential for longer-term improvements in the south-west.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

I welcome the Minister to his new job. The Waterloo to Exeter line serves Axminster and Honiton and the southern part of my constituency. It is a great rail line and it needs a second loop in order to get more trains into Exeter and then back up to London. Could the Minister give me details of what is happening with that?

Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Transport), Minister of State (London)

The Devon Metro proposals for enhanced rail services in the Exeter area include aspirations for additional local services between Axminster and Exeter. This is being progressed as a local scheme by Devon County Council, and we will continue to provide assistance as it develops its proposals.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

I welcome the Minister to his new position. The new Minister will be aware that the Government missed the Christmas deadline for funding the three-minute speed reduction between Plymouth and Exeter. At just £600,000, why did the Government knock back the south-west?

Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Transport), Minister of State (London)

I can assure that hon. Gentleman that that is not the case. We are continuing to look closely at the issue, and we are working on it in the Department and with Network Rail.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

I welcome my hon. Friend to his post. As he will know, one of the key improvements that could be made for my constituents would be the provision of a new station at Edginswell. Does he share the enthusiasm of his predecessor, my hon. Friend Paul Maynard—whom I see further down the Front Bench, in his new post as a Whip—for that project, and does he agree that it would be a perfect beneficiary of the new stations fund?

Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Transport), Minister of State (London)

I do share the enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys. We are currently investing more than £40 billion in our network, including more than £15 billion on rail enhancements, as part of the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century, and we are always on the lookout for good proposals to support.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Opposition Whip (Commons)

I, too, welcome the Minister to his post. When will the electrification programme for the railways in the south-west—including the chunk to Bristol—be “un-paused”?

Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Transport), Minister of State (London)

We are thinking about how we can deliver the best outcomes for passengers, because that is what is important to us. We are delivering the same benefits more efficiently, and at a lower cost to taxpayers. We are delivering faster journey times and better trains, and I think that Members on both sides of the House will welcome the new fleet of 29 Hitachi trains which will serve that part of the country.