Railway Station: Gamesley

– in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 15 July 2020.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Eddie Hughes.)

Photo of Robert Largan Robert Largan Conservative, High Peak 7:49, 15 July 2020

About 2,000 years ago, the Romans built a fort near Gamesley in my constituency; some say that that was the last time central Government put major investment into the area. When residents first moved into their homes on the newly built housing estate at Gamesley, they were told, “Yes, the transport links are poor, but don’t worry: a new railway station will be built shortly so that you can easily get to Manchester or Glossop town centre.” That was in 1968. The world has changed in many ways over the past 50 years, but Gamesley still does not have a station.

Before I was elected, the last time that an MP had even mentioned Gamesley station in Parliament was in 1968. Since December, I have been working hard to get Gamesley back on the agenda. I am grateful to the rail Minister for meeting me several times already to discuss the proposals and for the way the Government have been prepared to listen. The fact that we are having this debate shows how far we have come. The truth is that over the past 50 years, Governments of all parties have failed properly to invest in transport infrastructure outside London and the south-east, and especially in places such as Gamesley.

Gamesley is a great place to live and people are rightly proud to live there. It is a tight-knit community where people really look out for each other. That has never been more clear than during the lockdown, when organisations such as G52 have done amazing work supporting the most vulnerable. But Gamesley is also one of the most deprived communities in the whole country —on some measures, it is in the top 1% most deprived. A huge part of the reason for that is that local transport links are simply not good enough.

The Local Trust has carried out really important research into what it calls “left behind” communities and has identified Gamesley as one of the areas most in need of support. According to the Local Trust, 46% of households in Gamesley do not have a car, compared with the national average of 26%. It takes an estimated 53 minutes for people in Gamesley to travel to the nearest hospital by public transport—that is 36% longer than the national average.

Local bus services are also in a poor state: the 341 bus from Glossop to Gamesley stops running at five o’clock, which is not much help for anyone who finishes work later than that. Many of my constituents end up having to pay for a taxi to get back home to Gamesley after their shift ends. Local bus services are now set to get even worse: Stagecoach has just announced its intention to scrap the 236 bus between Glossop and Ashton, which will leave people in nearby Brookfield and Woolley Bridge without any direct service.

Travel is not the only barrier facing people in Gamesley. The national average broadband speed is 45.1 megabits per second; Gamesley’s is just 28 megabits per second. Low digital connectivity is just another reminder of how places such as Gamesley have been left behind, denied the essential infrastructure that they need to unleash their full potential. The lack of infrastructure and public transport connections to places such as Glossop and Manchester has had a significant and negative impact on the lives of local people. It has led to fewer job opportunities and a real impact on people’s quality of life.

Building Gamesley station will help to transform the life chances of local people. The case for a station is very strong. Transport for Greater Manchester and Derbyshire County Council are currently working jointly on a strategic outline business case, and they have already said: “Gamesley station has a good strategic case and excellent local support.” I can certainly attest to the strong local support. A huge number of local people have signed my long-standing petition in support of the station. As it stands today, more than 30% of the entire population of Gamesley have now signed my petition; by any yardstick that shows pretty strong support.

The strategic case is clear: the cost is relatively low, sidings already exist and trains already pause before going over Dinting viaduct, so a new station would have only a minimal impact on the current timetable of around one or two extra minutes’ journey time. That would be a small price to pay for the huge benefits that the station would bring to the people of Gamesley.

Photo of Mark Fletcher Mark Fletcher Conservative, Bolsover

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who is making an exceptional argument for the need for a railway station at Gamesley in his constituency. Pinxton in the Bolsover constituency is in a similar situation: a train track runs through it but it does not currently have a station. Passenger services to Pinxton could have a transformative effect; does my hon. Friend support such a proposal?

Photo of Robert Largan Robert Largan Conservative, High Peak

My hon. Friend and county neighbour is an excellent champion for the people of Bolsover and I absolutely agree with him.

Gamesley station will not just benefit the people of Gamesley. The nearest station to Gamesley is Dinting. Demand at Dinting has grown significantly in recent years as more and more houses are built in the Glossop area, which has led to growing parking pressures at Dinting. Building the new station will help reduce those pressures, shorten commuting times for many people who drive to Dinting and, crucially, get more cars off the road. That would help address the notoriously bad traffic problems in the Glossop area.

Traffic is not a new problem. The need for the Mottram bypass has been talked about for over half a century, and traffic is now worse than ever. For many in the region, Glossop has become synonymous with traffic jams, so I am pleased the Government recognise that and that the Prime Minister recently backed building the bypass. It would not just be a gamechanger for people in places such as Glossop, Hadfield and Charlesworth, but would help address a major bottleneck in the national strategic road network between Manchester and Sheffield. We also need to address the traffic problems at Tintwistle, and I am pleased that the Government continue to study proposals for the trans-Pennine tunnel, which would reduce journey times in the region by around 30 minutes.

To solve the problem in the long term, however, we need not just to build the Mottram bypass, but to get more cars off the road, and Gamesley station would be a key part of that. People in High Peak are serious about tackling climate change, and Gamesley station would play a part in reducing carbon emissions and getting the local economy to net zero carbon. An awful lot of rat running goes through Gamesley and Charlesworth to Broadbottom station, and Gamesley station would remove the need for that. If done right, there is also an opportunity to link the new station to the Trans Pennine Trail, and the station can be linked by footpath to Simmondley.

I said at the start of my speech that Governments of all parties have failed to invest in our transport infrastructure for decades, but we now have a Government who have promised to build, build, build. The political will is clearly there, but we need more than just political will. We need to change our whole approach for infrastructure, and that means sorting out the Treasury Green Book rules and traditional WebTAG approach.

Photo of Chris Loder Chris Loder Conservative, West Dorset

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this Adjournment debate. I agree with what he says about the Green Book, which the Government and the Treasury use in determining the economic value of infrastructure enhancements, particularly for rail. While the coronavirus has been devastating across the country, does he agree that there are many opportunities in terms of infrastructure, levelling up and ensuring that the models to which he refers can be recalibrated to help station projects such as Gamesley?

Photo of Robert Largan Robert Largan Conservative, High Peak

My hon. Friend is an expert in rail matters and infrastructure projects and a real asset to this House. He is absolutely right that the current approaches just do not properly assess the true value of infrastructure projects. They fail to take fully into account the wider economic and social benefits of levelling up, and that has helped contribute towards the bias in spending on infrastructure projects towards London and the south-east.

When Transport for Greater Manchester and Derbyshire County Council complete the business case later this month, I hope the Government assess the proposals based on the wider benefits, rather than just narrowly focusing on outdated Treasury cost-benefit ratios. The cost of Gamesley station is modest—perhaps we could call it a rounding error in the Crossrail budget. We can also help to reduce the cost of infrastructure projects by getting the nuts and bolts of delivery right, focusing on things such as our infrastructure industries. The Chancellor’s great announcement about training schemes was welcome, and we should be thinking about focusing that on to the industries we need to deliver infrastructure investments.

Photo of Chris Loder Chris Loder Conservative, West Dorset

Does my hon. Friend also agree that leaving the European Union gives us an enormous opportunity to shed some of the shackles, rules and regulations that we have had to contend with for decades and that have massively increased the costs of building train stations such as Gamesley?

Photo of Robert Largan Robert Largan Conservative, High Peak

My hon. Friend makes a good point. There are huge opportunities ahead for places such as Gamesley.

By building Gamesley station, the Government can offer a helping hand and send a clear message to the people of Gamesley that they are not forgotten. It is time to deliver on the promise made 52 years ago and build Gamesley station.

Photo of Chris Clarkson Chris Clarkson Conservative, Heywood and Middleton 7:59, 15 July 2020

I thank my hon. Friend Robert Largan for securing this important debate. It is widely known among his fellow northern MPs that he is a doughty champion for his constituents on a range of issues, not least this important project. In that vein, I wish to take Members on a brief journey, one that I hope will be as enriching and swift as commuters will soon enjoy from Gamesley to Manchester. That journey begins where else but in ancient Rome. In the senates of the Roman republic there was an august member of that body known as Cato Censorius, who was convinced that war was coming between the republic and the city of Carthage for control of the Mediterranean. So convinced of that was he that he began to end every oration with

“Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” or, “Moreover, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed.” It did not matter what the debate was on, be it taxation, agriculture or the most auspicious date on which to go to the Circus Maximus, each and every speech would end the same way. That was helpfully shortened by 19th century historians to “Carthago delenda est”, which is less of a mouthful.

It was another 2,237 years before there would be another orator to match that clarity of purpose and single-mindedness—Robertus Architectus, or Robert the builder. This champion of the people of Alto Cacumen—High Peak to we mere Anglo-Saxons—has skilfully worked the building of Gamesley station into no fewer than eight debates, covering topics as diverse as rail fares, the economy and the Greater Manchester spatial framework. He has mentioned Gamesley station more times in his eight months as a Member of this House than all his predecessors combined.

That might all be to put a humorous spin on things, and I do so because my hon. Friend is a great friend of mine, but it does not diminish the fact that he is doing what we all came here promising to do: to put the interests of those who elected us first. The construction of Gamesley station will, much as the extension of the Metrolink to Middleton, do a great deal of good for the local economy, the environment, jobs and the prosperity of the region he represents. We are all seized with the idea that we need to get cars off the road and improve transport infrastructure, as well as boost our economy in the post-covid era. As Cato may well have said, this is bonum commune communitatis—for the good of the whole community.

It is an absolute pleasure to participate in this debate and I will bring my thoughts to a close by simply saying: ceterum autem censeo Stationem Ardotaliæ esse ædificandam!

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Minister of State (Department for Transport) 8:02, 15 July 2020

What do you say after that? I did two years of Latin at secondary school and I hated every second of it—I am sorry Mr Patterson. I just feel sorry for the Hansard transcribers at this point.

It has been a pleasure to listen to this debate on plans to build a railway station at Gamesley, and I thank my hon. Friend Robert Largan for securing it. I also thank the other Members who have made contributions. My hon. Friend Mark Fletcher never misses an opportunity to remind me that other bids for Government spending on railways are available. My hon. Friend Chris Loder is an expert in rail matters. I am not sure whether he managed eventually to get Gamesley into his contribution, but he proved that he knows what he is talking about. My hon. Friend Chris Clarkson has confused me no end with what he said, but he made the point that my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak does bang on about Gamesley station a lot. Before he was elected the proposal for a station at Gamesley had not been mentioned in Parliament since 1968, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton said, since he came here only a few months ago it has been mentioned in eight debates. Gamesley is definitely on the levelling up agenda, at least for contributions in the Chamber and, we hope, for development economically as well.

Hon. Members may be aware that I was an MEP for 10 years—this is like Alcoholics Anonymous and we can admit to things in this Chamber—and I represented High Peak, in the glorious region of the East Midlands, and I have been to Gamesley. So not only does the rail Minister know what he is talking about when it comes to stations, but I know exactly the location that my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak is talking about. As Members will be aware, this Government are investing record levels in rail funding to deliver the biggest rail modernisation programme for more than a century. We are spending £48 billion over what in the industry lingo we call “control period 6”, which runs from 2019 to 2024, to improve rail services for passengers and freight customers, while maintaining current high levels of safety and reliability.

I was pleased to hear that my hon. Friend had supported a bid to the new stations fund to build a station at Gamesley. As I understand it, and as he has mentioned to me on a number of occasions, the people of Gamesley have waited a long time to have a train station. As Members will know, we launched another—£20 million—round of funding for the new stations fund, to open new train stations across the country, in a fresh boost for towns that lost their rail lines in the Beeching closures. Applications for the fund closed on 5 June, and we hope to announce the successful applications in the autumn. The fund was very over-subscribed because, as Members can tell from the contributions in tonight’s debate, there are lots of places that need to be connected to our rail network, having lost their connections in the past.

My hon. Friend will recall that earlier this year the Secretary of State invited Members, local authorities and community groups from across England and Wales to come forward with proposals on how they could use funding to reinstate axed local services, in an initiative called “Restoring Your Railway”, reversing the Beeching cuts. Thanks to the Government’s £500 million fund, long isolated communities across the country will benefit from better rail connections that will level up regional economies, boost access to jobs and education, and kick-start the restoration of lines closed more than 50 years ago. A sum of £300,000 has been committed to an ideas fund to kick-start the process and encourage innovative ideas that would then be considered for future funding. I suggest to my hon. Friend that this agenda fits very nicely with what he is trying to achieve for his constituents.

I have taken note of the fact that the Transport for Greater Manchester strategy delivery plan for 2020 to 2025 outlines Gamesley as a potential location for a new station. The Transport for Greater Manchester new rail and Metrolink study in 2018, which was commissioned in conjunction with authorities including Derbyshire County Council, identified that further work, including a strategic outline business case, should be produced with regard to Gamesley station. I really do think that we are getting on the right track in terms of my hon. Friend’s plans.

Northern trains has written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to provide assurances that it will provide full support to all further work commissioned by Transport for Greater Manchester and Derbyshire County Council and to the development of the business case. With my hon. Friend’s cajoling, a number of key factors have been lined up to get Gamesley station firmly in front of planners.

I would therefore like to reassure my hon. Friend and other Members who took part in the debate that the Government are committed to investing billions of pounds to improve rail services for passengers and freight customers, while maintaining the current high levels of safety and reliability. We are committed to levelling up the country and to build, build, build. That is why we launched the new stations fund to open up new train stations across the country, providing a fresh boost for towns that lost their rail lines in the Beeching closures. I really do hope that the people of Gamesley will be able to benefit from this initiative.

There is some way to go down this route before winners are selected, but the Government are genuinely committed to levelling up opportunity across the United Kingdom, and my hon. Friend has made an extremely powerful case for Gamesley in his constituency.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.