I rise to support the HS2 rail development and to support the Government ahead of the votes this evening. The name HS2, as many have said, is somewhat misleading, because the project is clearly more about capacity. The greatest gain will be in terms of capacity and therefore improved resilience, allowing us to connect the north to the south and, I hope, the east to the west.
As it is Monday, I feel particularly able to talk about rail, because I have just enjoyed my twice a week, five and a half hour commute. I travel from Bootle village to Barrow, and change. Then, I move from Barrow to Lancaster, and change. Then, I move from Lancaster to Crewe, and it was lovely to hear Laura Smith talk about her constituency, because I enjoyed a most memorable 25 minutes on platform 5, before moving again, from Crewe to London Euston. That is a journey I may twice a week—a round trip of 11 hours.
I can see for myself how vulnerable the infrastructure is and how one train being delayed impacts, with cancelled trains, thousands of inconvenienced commuters, thousands of pounds in compensation claims and, most importantly, lost confidence. That is at a time when the ability to travel by public transport is so vital if we are to decarbonise our transport systems and try to hit that 2050 target.
The Minister for HS2 rightly argues that it is critical to unlocking Northern Powerhouse Rail by providing the foundations on which Northern Powerhouse Rail can be realised. It is also planned that HS2 will link over 25 towns and cities, from Scotland through to the south-east, joining up nearly half the UK. It is important to recognise that the funding for HS2 does not come at the expense of wider investment in the railways; it is not either/or—from my perspective in the north of England, it is in addition. That is about the investment in the Cumbrian coastal railway, but I also welcome the fact that the Government are investing billions of pounds across our railways between 2019 and 2024—the most significant such investment since Victorian times.
Just last week, we celebrated the confirmation of an £8 million investment in the preliminary works on the Cumbrian coast line. Living on the train line as I do, I see from my living room window the increase in services. There are 21 trains on a Sunday, which is a first between Whitehaven and Millom. Never before have we had trains on Sundays. It has made a huge improvement to our tourist economy. We now have 205 services between Whitehaven and Millom. After the tricky situation with the timetable change in May 2018, we have seen huge improvements in reliability on our line —now up to 93.5% reliability. Since the new timetable was introduced last year, the extra services have been running at record reliability, thanks to the intervention of the Department for Transport. That is great news for commuters.
We have seen an end to the very unreliable Class 37 locomotive. I am pleased it has been relegated to the scrapheap—or possibly the museum. We are also seeing an end to the very uncomfortable Pacer trains, or “nodding donkeys” as they are more commonly known in my area. As long as that investment continues locally, with the recently announced millions of pounds to develop preliminary works on the Cumbrian coast line to improve the rolling stock and to ensure that a reliable service connects people to places seven days a week, then I welcome the additional infrastructure investment that the Government propose with HS2 and, critically, Northern Powerhouse Rail. We have in the past referred to HS3 as a follow-on from HS2, but that northern connection is now termed Northern Powerhouse Rail, with a focus on connectivity from east to west from Liverpool to Leeds via Manchester.
New clause 1 refers to quarterly reports on environmental impact, costs and progress. However, the environmental statement, at 11,000 pages, is already incredibly extensive, so I do not believe we need another layer of reporting on a statement that is already out there. The environmental statement has been scrutinised independently and by the Select Committee, which has made its own decisions. It is important to recognise that not all scrutiny must take place in public. Ministers can maintain pressure through a co-operative, sensible, business-like environment, rather than having to shame a contractor on the Floor of the House for the sake of political point scoring.