Restoring Your Railway Programme

Transport – in the House of Commons on 16th December 2021.

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Photo of Danny Kruger Danny Kruger Conservative, Devizes

What steps his Department is taking to maintain funding for restoring your railway projects following the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Good morning, Mr Speaker, and merry Christmas to you and your staff. [Interruption.] Well, someone has to do it.

Through our restoring your railway programme—a £500 million fund—we remain committed to reopening lines and stations, reconnecting communities across the country.

Photo of Danny Kruger Danny Kruger Conservative, Devizes

Mr Speaker, a merry Christmas from me, too, to everybody.

Devizes is of course the jewel of Wiltshire. It used to have, according to medieval chroniclers, the finest castle in Christendom, until Cromwell pulled it down. It also used to have a very fine train station. Beeching closed it. The Victorians rebuilt our castle. I hope the Government are going to rebuild our station. Can the Minister tell us when he is likely to announce the successful award of restoring your railway funding to Devizes?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Can I thank my hon. Friend for his question and congratulate him on obviously being a huge champion for his constituency? His knowledge of the history of the railways in his locality and beyond is second to none. As he will know, we have now received the business case for that particular scheme, and we will be considering the next steps for a tranche of projects, including Devizes gateway, in the new year.

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Chair, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee

Happy Christmas from the Opposition Benches to you and all your staff, Mr Speaker.

Along with my hon. Friend Sarah Champion and Lee Rowley, I am supporting the opening of the Barrow Hill line, which goes from Sheffield to Chesterfield through my constituency, hopefully with new stations at Beighton and Waverley. The real advantage will be if we can get people out of their cars on to the new line so that we avoid the congestion in Crystal Peaks and Handsworth in my constituency, and on the Sheffield Parkway. We have more chance of doing that if, rather than a heavy rail service going into Victoria that puts people in the middle of nowhere, we get a tram-train on the line going into the centre of Sheffield, which would have a much better chance of encouraging people out of their cars. Will the Minister seriously look at that option?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I actually know the project very well—I have participated in a deep dive on it—and I think he is completely right. There are now many more light rail and very light rail products out there, which would be very suitable for this scheme. The whole point of the restoring your railway scheme is to help people find the right product to deliver the right scheme for them in their locality. If he would like a meeting on this, I would happily meet him.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee, Chair, Transport Committee

As well as wishing you a merry Christmas, Mr Speaker, I thank you and all the staff in this place for everything you do for us. May I extend that to the ministerial team and say thanks for all the evidence they have given to the Transport Committee?

With regard to restoring our railways post the pandemic, it is essential that we give passengers the confidence to get back on board. I welcome the proposals announced this morning to allow compensation to be easily applied for. Will the Minister consider looking at automated and automatic compensation to allow the money to come straight back into bank accounts even if passengers do not even know they were late?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I thank the Chair of the Transport Committee and wish him a merry Christmas too. I know for a fact that he is very interested in this subject, because he introduced a ten-minute rule Bill on this very point a while back. He has been ahead of the curve, and certainly ahead of the industry, on this issue for quite some time. Great British Railways will almost certainly be doing this sort of thing. We are trying to make sure that we go faster, so what he will have seen in the story today is our direction of travel. We want people to have every confidence when they return to our railway that, should they be significantly delayed, it is a very simple process to claim their refund.