Transport Connectivity

Transport – in the House of Commons on 17th March 2022.

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Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Conservative, Ynys Môn

What steps he is taking to improve transport connectivity within the UK.

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We are carefully considering the recommendations from Sir Peter Hendy’s “Union Connectivity Review” and we will respond in due course.

Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Conservative, Ynys Môn

I welcome Avanti West Coast’s £170,000 investment and the creation of a dedicated driver depot in Holyhead, but direct rail services between London and Holyhead, the UK’s second busiest ro-ro port and the main route connecting the UK and the EU, will reduce from nine per day prior to the pandemic to just two. What steps is the Minister taking to help providers return rail services across the UK to their pre-pandemic levels to support connectivity across the UK?

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I commend my hon. Friend on being a true champion for Ynys Môn. We continue to work closely with her and operators on the development of attractive timetables that are reliable, deliver excellent performance and are good value for money. Thanks to her campaign and that work, the two trains per day from London to Holyhead will increase to four in May, and we are looking to bring back more.

Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Labour, Bedford

There are conflicting views on East West Rail as a project to improve connectivity, but the one thing we all agree on in Bedford is that the delayed consultation response, the potential demolition of homes and concerns about the environment are taking a toll on residents. We need clarity, so will the Minister tell us whether the DFT is backtracking on the project? Will he instruct East West Rail to urgently publish its proposals?

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I will ask the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend Wendy Morton to respond in detail to the concerns that the hon. Gentleman has raised as soon as possible.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Conservative, South West Wiltshire

Will the Minister update the House on where we are with improving connectivity between the south coast and the M4? Is the study in his Department on track to report in September? Will it include an upgrade to the A350 as it rumbles through Westbury and Yarnbrook in my constituency? Can he give any commitment at all to a relief road that will, after so many years, bring some relief to my constituents in the town of Westbury?

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My right hon. Friend has raised the question of Westbury and the difficulties his constituents are facing. I have heard that very clearly, and I will ensure that he gets a detailed response from the roads Minister, Baroness Vere, on the progress.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

Ministers will be aware that the Select Committee on Transport recently visited Leeds and Bradford as part of our inquiry into the integrated rail plan. Has the current Transport Secretary seen the former Transport Secretary Lord McLaughlin’s comments that the Government’s revised integrated rail plan goes against the best interests of people in the north of England? Is that why he has reduced Transport for the North’s budget by 37%?

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Secretary of State has met Lord McLaughlin recently, and he will no doubt have reiterated the point that I reiterate to the hon. Gentleman and everyone who asks about the integrated rail plan, which is that this is £96 billion of investment—the greatest from any Government in recent history.

Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Conservative, Aberconwy

The Hendy review recommended the creation of a UK-wide strategic transport network. It also identified a gap in north Wales. However, when Transport for Wales bid for funds to develop the business case for investment to fill that gap, it was declined. Will the Minister meet me to discuss and perhaps reconsider that?

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We are committed to strengthening transport bonds throughout our Union. I note that the Welsh Government published a report recently saying that they did not support key improvements to the A55 in north Wales, nor the building of new roads, but I know that the roads Minister will be keen to meet my hon. Friend as soon as possible to discuss his individual concerns.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

Connecting communities to the rest of the UK is crucial, but not at the expense of cutting off communities from their own locality. I urge the Minister to look again at plans in the High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill that will see the Metrolink from Piccadilly to Ashton-under-Lyne, which runs through my constituency, severed and mothballed during the construction phase, to be replaced by buses. It is unacceptable; can we look at that again?

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Department is very keen to work with local communities to ensure that the plan works. I know that the HS2 Minister, my hon. Friend Andrew Stephenson will be keen to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss precisely that issue.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

Sometimes the Government get criticised over rail, but in my constituency, we have had electrification, more trains and more capacity going to Wellingborough, and we are now getting it going north to the great cities, and we have our station being redeveloped. It is in the middle of the country, and we have Station Island there. Is this an example of what the Government are going to do elsewhere?

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend raises a very good point. Under the previous Labour Government, 63 miles were electrified, whereas we, up to the end of the relative period, have electrified 1,221 miles.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

Happy St Patrick’s day to everyone, but especially the thriving Irish community in my Slough constituency. Industry data that I have seen shows that while passengers are battling to get on overcrowded trains, 21,000 fewer services are running today than there were pre-pandemic. With more people returning to rail, and to ensure that we do not have a car-led recovery, will the Minister now commit to restoring the services that have been cut? If not, why not?

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Following the Williams-Shapps review, we have announced the creation of Great British Railways, which will create a truly passenger-focused service for the UK. I have already mentioned the £96 billion that has gone into the integrated rail plan, as well as the restoring your railway programme. The Government are focusing on getting passengers on to rail wherever possible.