Stations Outside Cities: Regeneration

Transport – in the House of Commons at on 13 October 2022.

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Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Conservative, Mid Norfolk

Whether her Department is taking steps to increase investment in the regeneration of stations outside cities to (a) improve access for (i) local residents, (ii) commuters and (iii) tourists and (b) support growth hubs.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The Government recognise that stations are the heart of many communities across our country, providing vital transport links. We are investing in stations through the new stations fund and the restoring your railway programme, as well as through wider enhancement and renewal schemes. We are also providing accessibility improvements through the £383 million Access for All programme.

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Conservative, Mid Norfolk

I am grateful for that answer. No region is more poised to deliver growth for this country than the east, with agritech, cleantech, biotech and every other tech, but we are being held back by terrible infrastructure. The residents of East Anglia want a commitment to regional rail—what Network Rail dismisses as small regional routes—right at the heart of a growth vision. Will my right hon. and hon. Friends agree to support the role of stations in rural areas? There are 52 in East Anglia. They could all be innovation hubs and be redeveloped. They are going nowhere at the moment. In particular, there is Wymondham station in my patch, where disabled passengers have to go to Norwich to change platforms. We have waited 10 years. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made big commitments. Will the Minister meet me to drive rural stations for growth?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I am always delighted to meet colleagues who share my passion for investing in our rail network and who recognise that our stations are not just a handy place to board a train, but are sometimes the heart of a local community. We are investing in our stations: for example, we recently delivered a new mobility hub at Norwich station in the east of England. I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

Staveley station in my constituency, on the Lakes line from Oxenholme to Windermere, has 41 steps to get up to it. It is 100% inaccessible to anybody with a mobility problem. That is an outrage. We have bid into several pots over the years, but because it is not a main line station, it never qualifies for any funding. Will the Minister meet me and local rail campaigners to make sure that Staveley station is accessible for everyone?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Minister of State (Department for Transport)

As the hon. Member will know, we are making great progress on accessibility through our Access for All programme across our stations. We are also completing an accessibility audit of all the stations on our network. I am happy to meet him to talk about his station and I look forward to announcing, in the next year, the latest round of stations that will benefit from Access for All improvements.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham

I welcome the Minister to his new role and thank him for all his work in the Home Office.

Will the Minister commit to the upgrade of Witham train station, which has been under debate and discussion for many years? Importantly, will he help with the accessibility issue at Marks Tey station? I also invite him to come to Marks Tey station to look at the work that is needed to make it fully accessible.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I have a feeling that I will hear quite a lot about Chorley station over the next few months, Mr Speaker.

Turning to matters in Essex, I am delighted to see my right hon. Friend in her place, campaigning hard for her constituents. I would be delighted to visit—I expect that that is an invitation I really cannot refuse.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Defence)

Luton town station is our gateway to our town centre. People use it to go to work and football fans use it to go to the match, but as local people know and consistently tell me, it is not fit for purpose. It is decrepit and run down. Will the Minister outline the details of when the Access for All work will begin to install lifts to the four out of five platforms that are inaccessible? More importantly, to grow our local economy, will he commit to funding a comprehensive renovation to the station to make it fit for the 21st century?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I am happy to respond in more detail, perhaps in writing, about when work is planned to take place. I recognise the important role that the station plays at the heart of her constituency and community.