Transport Infrastructure

Transport – in the House of Commons on 24th October 2019.

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Photo of Craig Tracey Craig Tracey Conservative, North Warwickshire

What steps he is taking to ensure that all regions have sufficient transport infrastructure to support economic growth.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

What steps he is taking to ensure that all regions have sufficient transport infrastructure to support economic growth.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

What steps he is taking to ensure that all regions have sufficient transport infrastructure to support economic growth.

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Since 2015, we have doubled our capital investment in the transport system, and we are investing over £72 billion in transport infrastructure in the five years to 2020-21. The Prime Minister has set out his commitment to enhancing and levelling up connectivity across the country and, as such, we are investing an average of £248 per person in the north, compared with £236 per person in the south.

Photo of Craig Tracey Craig Tracey Conservative, North Warwickshire

One of the main projects that has been identified as essential for future economic growth in the midlands is the A5 upgrade in north Warwickshire. Will the Minister commit to working with me, the A5 partnership and Midlands Connect to help deliver these vital improvements?

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Yes. My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and we are in discussions right now on that important golden triangle. We will shortly be announcing our plans for the A5 in the road investment strategy.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

Middlewich is clearly on the Government’s map for both road and rail investment, with £50 million for a bypass and funding for the business case for reopening the railway station. Will the Minister assure me that both projects are continuing at pace, and will he meet me to discuss it?

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Yes, I am delighted to reassure my hon. Friend that we will make sure the pace is kept up and that the change in political control does not slow it down. We will make a decision on the final funding once a business case has been properly considered.

On the reinstatement of passenger rail services via Middlewich, my officials are now working with local partners on the development of that business case, which we will consider with Transport for the North.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

The A64, which runs through my constituency and the constituency of my right hon. Friend Mr Goodwill, is desperately in need of dualling. Will the Minister answer the calls of all MPs, businesses, local authorities, residents and hundreds of thousands of tourists and commit to this very important project?

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend has been a tireless campaigner for the A64, and I can assure him that his message, both today and in his various correspondence and meetings, has been heard loud and clear. We will shortly be announcing the second road investment strategy, as promised in the first. We have plans for the A64, so I urge him just to wait for a few weeks and months.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Opposition Whip (Commons)

For economic growth to be properly supported, transport infrastructure needs to be properly accessible, so will the Minister and the Government commit to making sure that every local railway station, such as Lawrence Hill and Stapleton Road in my constituency, is fully accessible?

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady makes an excellent point—I have a railway station in my constituency that is in desperate need of disability access—and that is why we have launched the Access for All programme. We will be looking to make sure that all those stations with the most urgent access challenges are sorted in the right order.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (International Trade)

Buses are a very important part of transport infrastructure, and my constituents will benefit enormously from the announcement by the metro Mayor of the Liverpool city region, Steve Rotheram, of a new metrocard. When will we improve bus service integration across the country by ensuring that we have a single smartcard, not different cards in different parts of the country?

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I note the omission of thanks for the major package of investment in bus infrastructure, and I simply make the point that the Mayor has those powers. I am leading the Department’s work on smart ticketing, and we are keen to see Transport for the North and the Mayor lead that programme so people in that area can have integrated ticketing.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

I am sure the Minister shares my frustration that rail passengers in the north will have to continue enduring the use of Pacer trains well into 2020, despite assurances from Northern that they would be taken out of service by the end of this year. Does he believe that passengers should be compensated as a result?

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The Department shares the disappointment that the new rolling stock has been delayed. Pacer trains are not fit for purpose for the 21st century. Northern retired the first of its 102 Pacers in August, and it plans to remove two thirds by December 2019. Northern advises that, subject to receiving appropriate dispensation, up to 34 Pacers will remain in the fleet, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are determined to make sure the fleet is properly modernised.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

Labour knows the true value of connecting towns and cities across the north. Our integrated transport plan will invest in public transport, in public ownership, to work for the passengers not the shareholders. We will start by investing £39 billion in the whole Crossrail for the north project. How much will the Minister commit to the project today? Only £15 billion?

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I think the nation will be interested to hear the Opposition Front Bench team announcing major plans for investment, given that their economic plans will see a massive loss of investment in this country and massive economic damage. We can fund good transport infrastructure and a good NHS only when we have economic growth. The truth is that this Government are proceeding with the biggest investment package in road, rail and infrastructure in this country since the Victorians—£72 billion—and we are spending more per head on passengers in the north than in the south. This Government have the interests of the north at their heart.