Transport Accessibility: Bolton West

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:41 pm on 20 June 2023.

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Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 4:41, 20 June 2023

I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend Chris Green on securing this debate, and on speaking so passionately about the issues not just in his constituency, but across Greater Manchester and the wider region. He made the point at the very start of his comments that the transport infrastructure should not be a funnel towards Manchester city centre, but a fanning out, with a radial approach right across the region. As a Lancashire lad from not very far up the road in Blackburn, I am fully aware of many of the issues he has raised. I used to trundle through on those Pacer trains down the Ribble Valley line through Bolton and into Manchester, and we can see the transformation over the last few years with the investment from this Government. I have visited Bury recently, but I will be coming to Bolton soon, so I look forward to seeing some of the upgrades my hon. Friend has talked about, particularly around Daisy Hill station as I am the accessibility champion for the Department.

My hon. Friend talked about the radial movement of traffic around Greater Manchester, and I think it was particularly important what he said about the need to avoid any of the artificial barriers that council boundaries can sometimes create. I am really glad to see that he and other Conservative Members from across Greater Manchester are happy to work with the Mayor. Just yesterday, I had a meeting with the Mayor and my hon. Friend James Grundy about some of the projects the Mayor is pushing forward. I am just so glad to see Conservative Members leaning forward on that. I know that some Opposition Members, if any had been here today, would not perhaps have wanted to talk about the Mayor of Greater Manchester, given that we know the relationship between him and the Leader of the Opposition could perhaps be improved, if I can put it like that. However, it is Conservative MPs who are really leading the fight for their constituencies right across the region. Given the long-standing nature of the career of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West compared with that of some of his colleagues in Greater Manchester, I am sure he will be able to guide them and help them.

My hon. Friend is right to talk about the broader issues of economic opportunity, because that is what transport is really about. Yes, it is about getting from A to B, but it is also about why someone wants to get from A to B. It is about cultural connections, economic growth and delivering opportunity for people across the country, and I think that was at the heart of what he was really saying. It is about the broader levelling-up approach that the Government have taken in that space, and we need to continue that and do more of it.

The Government recognise the importance of transport to Greater Manchester, its people and the economy, and we have demonstrated that in the commitments made through the “trailblazer” deeper devolution deal, and our significant funding commitments, such as the electrification projects that my hon. Friend talked about. Indeed, when I was a special adviser in the Department for Transport a few years ago, I remember visiting Bolton with the then Secretary of State and my hon. Friend, to see some of that fantastic work in progress. It goes to show that over the past 13 years there has been a huge amount of electrification, compared with what happened in the previous 13 years.