Railways: Update - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 29th November 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport) 4:00 pm, 29th November 2017

My Lords, one thing on which we agree with the Government is that the answer to improving the railways does not lie in renationalisation. I am disappointed in this strategic vision. It is largely a restatement of existing announcements, some of which I recognise from the days of the coalition.

However, on these Benches, we welcome the commitment to assess transport projects on the basis of their potential for unlocking future growth, rather than on a simplistic assessment of current overcrowding and journey time saved. I want to ask the Minister about the announcement on reopening old lines, which had a lot of publicity this morning—but it is obvious that no new money is involved, as otherwise we would have been told. The reference in the Statement is to partnership with metro mayors. That is usually a code for saying that local government will foot the bill. What are the terms on which these proposals are made? Where will the money come from and how advanced are the plans, with specific examples in mind?

This week, the Minister replied to a Written Question from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, setting out total transport expenditure across each region of England. I am grateful to the noble Lord for asking the Question. The Answer, which I recommend to your Lordships, makes extraordinary reading. Capital expenditure in the last year is a total of £16 billion across the whole of England, £6 billion of which was spent in London. Only £520 million was spent in the north-east, and £666 million in the east Midlands. This entrenches the inequality and the divide in our society, and I am disappointed that this Statement does not provide new announcements on projects for the north and the Midlands that are desperately needed. What are the Government going to do to change that balance of spending within the country?

Finally, there is no reference here to electrification projects. The stalling of electrification and the abandonment of those plans was a huge blow to those poorer parts of the UK, including south Wales—west of Cardiff being an example. It is important that they are given the renewed investment that electrification with provide. That will also improve the quality of our air.