Transport Connectivity: North-west

Transport – in the House of Commons at on 16 May 2024.

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Photo of Damien Moore Damien Moore Conservative, Southport

What steps he is taking to improve transport connectivity for towns and cities in the north-west.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

Before I answer my hon. Friend’s question, may I just welcome very strongly your statement at the beginning of business, Mr Speaker, standing up for the rights of Members to debate things in this House and the importance of protecting their security? That is welcome, and I am sure it will have been welcomed by all parts of the House.

In answer to my hon. Friend’s question, Network North will see a further £19.8 billion of investment in the north of England following the redirection of funding from the second phase of HS2. Liverpool city region is one of six areas to benefit from nearly £4 billion of uplift in the second round of the city region sustainable transport settlements. A further £1.48 billion is going to the non-mayoral local authorities to fund a wide range of projects. Guidance on how that should be spent will be forthcoming shortly.

Photo of Damien Moore Damien Moore Conservative, Southport

My right hon. Friend knows how important rail connectivity is to my constituents. It will be further enhanced by the reconnection of the Burscough curves, a project that is also supported by our hon. Friend Katherine Fletcher, who has her own campaign for a station at Midge Hall. Given the importance of schemes that link areas, will he issue stronger guidance for transport authorities to have better links between each other, rather than just within their own transport areas?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

As my hon. Friend knows, I recently hosted a roundtable, bringing together him, his local authority, Lancashire County Council, local rail operators and other interested parties to discuss how to further develop the business case for the Burscough curves. He will be aware that we have allocated that money to the local transport fund. Lancashire County Council will get £494 million over seven years, starting next year. I suggest he continues the conversation we have had to urge the council to look at developing that scheme. We will be publishing guidance encouraging it to do that, working with Members of Parliament in the very near future.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

When will the Secretary of State improve on the timetable at the time of Gladstone?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

I am not entirely certain—the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend Huw Merriman set out clearly the improved performance that we have seen this year. We are clear that we are integrating track and train with our rail reform that is being scrutinised in the House, and that will improve things. We have recently reorganised the Department, bringing in Alex Hynes to link that together. That is how we deliver improved performance. We have set out those plans clearly. Legislation before this House is being scrutinised by the Select Committee of my hon. Friend Iain Stewart. We look forward to its report, which I understand we will get before the summer recess, to take those plans forward.

Photo of Sara Britcliffe Sara Britcliffe Conservative, Hyndburn

We welcome the £494 million in Lancashire, as you will in Chorley, Mr Speaker. We have also been having discussions about what we want to see with that funding, whether that is at the Hare and Hounds junction in Clayton or just fixing potholes across the constituencies. One of the important things in Hyndburn and Haslingden is making sure that our train stations are accessible for everybody. We currently have a few bids in, including Church & Oswaldtwistle and Rishton. Will the Secretary of State look favourably upon those bids?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for welcoming the money that will go to her local authority. We will make it clear in the guidance, which I hope will be welcome to you as well, Mr Speaker, that local authorities should very much involve their Members of Parliament in discussing those priorities. I hope that every Member in the north and the midlands where local authorises are getting those funds will take advantage of that.

On my hon. Friend’s specific point about accessibility and our Access for All programme, as she knows, a number of bids were made and they are currently being scrutinised. I hope that, in the near future, we will be able to set out which ones will be funded. I urge her to wait for that announcement. I wish her good luck. Obviously, I cannot prejudge that process, but I hope that she is successful.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Will the Secretary of State explain why train fares have risen almost twice as fast as wages since 2010?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Lady will know that over the last two years the Government have made significant interventions to keep rail fares rising no faster than the rise in people’s wages. She also knows that we have to balance the farebox against the taxpayer. She will know that, because of the pandemic, the taxpayer has put in £31 billion over a couple of years to protect the rail industry. Passenger figures have not yet recovered to their numbers beforehand. That is why it is important that, as soon as we can, we get rail companies on contracts that incentivise them to drive up the number of passengers using the service, which is how we will reduce the call on the taxpayer and enable fares to be kept competitive.