Rail Connections: North of England

Transport – in the House of Commons on 28th January 2021.

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Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell

What steps his Department is taking to improve rail connections in the north of England.

Photo of Craig Whittaker Craig Whittaker Assistant Whip

What steps his Department is taking to improve rail connections in the north of England.

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Last year, we took control of the Northern rail franchise to deliver better and more punctual services. We announced £589 million to kick-start the Trans-Pennine route upgrade, and we continue to invest in improving Leeds station. This month, we have launched a consultation to address the Manchester bottleneck, and on Saturday we announced £34 for the initial work on reopening the Northumberland line.

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell

I welcome my hon. Friend’s commitment to rail in the north. Will he give me and my constituents an update on step-free access at Garforth station, which I have been campaigning on for many years?

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Department for Transport)

My right hon. Friend has been a tireless champion for the much-needed improvements at Garforth station, to make it safer for all passengers, especially those with restricted mobility or those with pushchairs. I share his frustration at the length of time it has taken to deliver the improvements that he has secured for his constituents, and we will seek an update on timescales from Network Rail.

Photo of Craig Whittaker Craig Whittaker Assistant Whip

It is concerning to see, in the local press at least, incredibly negative and biased reporting that the High Speed 2 eastern leg is to be scrapped. Will my hon. Friend confirm whether those reports are true? If so, how does that fit in with his longer-term ambition to improve rail connections in the north?

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend frequently raises his constituents’ concerns, particularly about the Calder Valley line and the need for improvements in local services. He is completely right to raise the importance of major rail infrastructure projects such as the eastern leg of HS2. We are committed to building HS2 phase 2b and to enabling the east midlands, Yorkshire and the north-east to reap the benefits of high-speed rail services. We aim to publish the integrated rail plan early this year, which will set out our plans covering the eastern leg.