The Government are committed to investing in infrastructure to boost economic growth across the country, and I was delighted to see this at first hand when visiting my hon. Friend’s constituency of Southend West last week, where the local authority has secured £19.9 million from the levelling up fund.
It was a real pleasure to welcome the Minister to the new city of Southend last week. Every station on the C2C line in Southend West is access friendly except for Chalkwell station, where there are 30 steep steps to clamber up and down. What further support or funding can the Minister provide to level up that final station and ensure that it is accessible to all?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to campaign for better access to stations for disabled people. I am pleased to confirm that Chalkwell is included in the Department for Transport’s £350 million Access for All programme, and that construction will begin to install a new footbridge and lift this autumn.
The Government have cut the infrastructure that they promised at the last election, not least in Northern Powerhouse Rail. The economy needs greater rail capacity for passengers and freight, so does not this great rail betrayal show that the Government are not interested in the infrastructure needed for the economy in the north and the midlands to thrive?
I simply do not recognise the picture that the hon. Member is painting. This Government are absolutely committed to investing in infrastructure because that is at the heart of our ambitions for economic growth and levelling up across the country, including £96 billion for the integrated infrastructure rail plan for the north of the country.
I welcome the Government’s increased investment in infrastructure, but as the Minister knows, for the investment to be most useful we need to improve the deliverability of that infrastructure practically on the ground. Could she set out further what the Government are doing to improve the efficacy of all of that money going into infrastructure so that it actually gets delivered?
That is an excellent question from my hon. Friend. We are not only investing in infrastructure but making sure that taxpayers’ money gets put to good use. One way we are doing that is by working with the Infrastructure and Products Authority and with Project SPEED, which specifically scrutinises the most important infrastructure projects in this country to ensure that we are doing a better job of making taxpayers’ money go further and doing it cleaner and greener as we go.
After London, the Lake district is the most popular visitor destination in the United Kingdom, with 19 million visitors a year, yet its only direct rail link has a single track from the main line at Oxenholme to Windermere, known as the Lakes line. There is a proposal on the table to effectively dual that line by means of a passing loop at Burneside. Will the Minister agree to meet me and folks from the local authority to ensure that—no pun intended—we can fast-track the dualling of the Lakes line?
Tell him yes!