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 Sugg Baroness Sugg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 4:00 pm, 29th November 2017

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked how we will deliver these schemes. As the Statement announced, we have already provided up to £34.7 billion directly in government grant, we expect significant amounts of that to be spent on enhancement during the period, and the funding is provided within that grant to support that. We are also making funding available for early-stage development of the new enhancement schemes.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, brought up electrification. We understand that passengers expect high-quality rail services and, of course, we are committed to electrification where it delivers clear passenger benefits. We are also taking advantage of state-of-the-art new technology to improve journeys. The decision to cancel some of the electrification was made to deliver the benefits to passengers sooner than would otherwise have been possible. We are focused on using the best technologies to improve each part of the network, and will continue to do so.

On fares reform, of course we carefully monitor rail fares and changes in average earnings, and will keep them under review in calculating rail fares. The regulated rail fares are capped in line with inflation each year and for the next year. In the five years to 2019, Network Rail is spending more than £40 billion to improve the network. On average, 97% of every pound of the passenger’s fare goes back into the railway. We recognise that the fare system can be complicated, and the Rail Minister is working with the industry to consider what can be done quickly to help passengers find and choose the best ticket.

On overcrowding, obviously the expansion we are talking about today will help. HS2, once it is up and running, will take huge amounts of people off the overcrowded rail network. As I said in the Statement, the South Eastern franchise is a good example. We are hoping that it will provide space for at least 40,000 additional passengers in the morning rush hour.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked how we will decide on the new rail lines and when they will be delivered. We of course want to work with partners in industry to develop the proposals for the next generation of those lines. We are developing guidance for investors and developers to ensure that the process for taking the proposals forward is as clear and transparent as possible. We cannot today commit to specific amounts or the timescale when the proposals are still in such early stages of development. The strategy refers to some of the potential ones, so we are aiming to take a sensible and measured approach, helping our partners to develop those proposals. As I said, we are funding schemes to help develop business cases.

The noble Baroness mentioned the north. We are investing huge amounts of money into rail in the north. For example, there is the £1 billion in the Great North Rail project to 2020, the train operators of Northern and TransPennine Express will invest over £1 billion in buying new trains and there will be more than 500 new carriages. The Great North Rail project has seen the journey times between Manchester and Liverpool improved by 15 minutes. In addition, we are working with Network Rail in the regions to develop options for major upgrades between Manchester, Leeds and York to provide more seats and faster journeys.