My Lords, I apologise for detaining your Lordships at this hour. I declare an interest: I am the unremunerated chair of the West Anglia Taskforce, and have been a user of the West Anglia line for more than 40 years. On
The West Anglia line denotes a corridor at the fringe of what is ordinarily believed to be East Anglia, because it comes out of north-east London into the upper Lea Valley, into Hertfordshire and Essex and then Cambridgeshire, and is perhaps not seen by many as true East Anglia. It is, however, a very important line. If I dare to quote myself from the report that the task force published in 2016:
“The West Anglia Main Line corridor is vital for the UK economy. London and the East of England are two of the fastest growing regions in the UK, and the West Anglia Main Line links them together. The railway is essential for bringing jobs, homes and businesses together”.
That is why it was felt more demonstrative to describe it as the innovation corridor of the UK.
If I may give a little history, in 1985 the decision was taken that Stansted should become London’s third airport, ending a long battle in which I was on the losing side. Although the term “integrated transport” was very much in vogue in those days, nobody saw fit to apply it in this instance by ensuring that the rail line was made fit for purpose if it was to serve an international airport. Regrettably, action on a proper railway linking Stansted to central London has not been undertaken by any subsequent Government and the problem has of course got worse. The regret which people who were on the receiving end of all this perhaps felt about disadvantage was all the greater for knowing that 20 years earlier in the 1960s, there had been a four-track railway in existence but it became a two-track railway on the advice of Dr Beeching. One does not have to be a sophisticated railway engineer to know that it is very difficult to operate both fast and slow trains on a two-track system. The only places where one train can overtake another are Harlow Town and Broxbourne. That does not of itself lend flexibility to the railway system.
Winding forward, we find that business is burgeoning on virtually the whole length of the route. At the northerly, Cambridge end, there is a tremendous concentration of high-tech industry. There is the biomedical campus at Cambridge, there is the airport and there is a host of businesses which are creating employment, drawing people into the area to fill the many vacancies that exist. Not only is industry becoming more important but the passenger numbers—people commuting and using the railway in any one of a number of ways—have vastly increased, putting pressure on the area. The population is growing still more, so there is continuing demand for more housing.
Stansted Airport has now achieved a throughput of over 28 million passengers per annum and the airport is proud that 50% of the people who come do so by some form of public transport. That is to be commended but, again, it puts a strain on the railway system. Successive Mayors of London have also proved ambitious in wanting to control and expand the inner London rail system to achieve a metro-style train service. This is also difficult to fit in with a railway that has to cope with medium destinations and the very outer destinations. One has to report that few freight paths have been created, despite the fact that Stansted Airport has become a major depot for the likes of FedEx and UPS.
All these demands on the railway simply cannot be met by a rickety, two-track system. Everyone, but everyone, is dissatisfied with the situation which has now arisen—and, at the moment, it shows no sign of getting better. For a while, we thought that the new dawn had arrived, with the emergence of the Crossrail 2 project. I am wholly supportive of this scheme. The project is vital for London, but it also provided the opportunity to boost the prospect of four-tracking on the railway between Tottenham Hale and Broxbourne, which would have opened up great possibilities. Unfortunately, the delay to Crossrail 1 is having a knock-on effect and creating renewed uncertainty about the timetable for Crossrail 2. I implore the Minister to recognise that doubts over Crossrail 2 really must not be allowed to mean that attention to the limitation of the West Anglia line is going to be put on hold. If that is to be the case, two very serious problems will arise for the Government.
The first is that Stansted, which has permission to use its facilities up to a level of 43 million passengers per annum, compared with the present 28 million, is the only airport in the London system with sufficient capacity to cope until further runway capacity is provided. As we seem to find any number of transport schemes where delays occur, I am dubious about the confidence with which Heathrow says that its third runway will be available by 2025. I suspect that it will be later than that. So the only place where new services coming into London can go is Stansted. The airlines are, understandably, very concerned about the quality of the connection to the city and pressure is being exerted. The Manchester Airports Group, the airport operator, is now very concerned about how the problems of the railway line can be overcome. Also, how are we going to get people to fill all the 5,000 or more jobs that are going to be created in the next few years? They will not all be found locally; many will travel from London and the means of doing that has got to be facilitated.
The second problem may seem more minor. Junction 8 on the M11 was the original access to this growing airport and remains important. The decision about the airport was made before a decision about where to put a motorway services area on the M11, and it was then chosen to do it on the same roundabout. I appeared at the public inquiry with the then Member for Hertford and Stortford to object to this. Our pleas were turned down. We were told that we did not know anything about it; the department had the experts; everything was going to be all right. Unfortunately, the whole thing was blocked very quickly after it had opened. More money has had to be spent to try to change the configuration of the roundabout and now even more is going to have to be spent. The simple answer would be to move it, because the congestion problem will not be overcome easily. With more housing planned for the area, the worry is that an inspector conducting an examination of the local plans of some of the immediate housing authorities would ask whether they had taken sufficient account of the capacity of this key roundabout to sustain their plans. That would be a disaster for local authorities.
There could be other solutions, to some extent. It would be churlish of me not to acknowledge that there are new trains, except they will not be able to perform to their full capabilities on a track system which has insufficient capacity. Digitalised signalling may mean that more trains can be put into the system, but that does not resolve the problem of the slow and the fast. There are 82 crossings on this railway line between London and Cambridge. Perhaps some of them could be weeded out. Passing loops could possibly be created to provide a few more overtaking opportunities. The airport tunnel is already constrained. There is also the question of whether or not more services might go in to Stratford, taking some of the pressure off Liverpool Street. If track capacity cannot somehow be expanded, even by a small amount, before extra tracks are provided, the only other answer is fewer trains or fewer stops. This would lead, I believe, to a battle royal between the different interest groups and the Secretary of State would find himself an uncomfortable adjudicator. Before it gets to that state, we must have facts on the table—although I recognise that even studying options costs money for Network Rail. Every possible intervention should be assessed for what it could achieve and at what cost, because that is the only way we will be able to persuade alternative funders to come in, for which I know Sir Peter Hendy would be very grateful.
I know that the Government have been persuaded to undertake so many projects but in the end a choice has to be made. I hope that tonight I have gone some way towards persuading the Government how much rests on reducing the restrictions on the UK’s innovation corridor.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, for this debate, because a number of colleagues and I have been discussing the title, “innovation corridor” and some of us thought it was the east-west railway from Oxford. I am obviously proved wrong and it is a much better corridor from London to Cambridge via Stansted, and probably a bit further than Cambridge as well. The noble Lord made some really powerful points about the third-rate status of that line; it has been like that for 60 or 70 years. I remember going up it on a steam train as a student and it was very bad in those days, although it has had more tracks since then.
The noble Lord mentioned that the roads are congested and that there is a continuing problem with emissions. Of course, the Government now have commitments to carbon reduction, but we need a massive reduction in the carbon associated with transport in particular. It was interesting to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, discussing bimode trains last week. The Government have committed to getting rid of diesel trains by 2040 but bimode trains with diesel engines are apparently exempt—presumably except when they run diesels. I can see a time when we are going to be moving towards electric cars, which will hopefully reduce some of the traffic jams the noble Lord was talking about, but there has to be a decent passenger service to go along with that.
There are some new developments on freight which should help. These involve high-speed freight in what are now no longer required as passenger trains—electric ones, obviously. I think that the first service will probably start between London Gateway and Liverpool Street. Customers are very interested and there is money there. Network Rail needs to provide access to the stations, but the key is that the customers want it and it will take some of the road freight congestion off the parallel roads, in this case and many others. Of course, it is very difficult to conceive how long-distance freight in the road freight industry can achieve the carbon reductions, because the weights are so big and the technology for battery lorries is not really there yet.
The innovation corridor needs to start at London and go beyond Stansted to Cambridge, and to Ely. The whole railway sector there is pretty bad and I can see demand going up, as the noble Lord said, quite significantly. I look at rail access to the four main London airports—Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted—and all apart from Stansted have four tracks on part of their route into London. It is not on all of it, but it does allow, as the noble Lord said, some fast trains to overtake the slow stoppers.
When Crossrail opens, they will probably have to get rid of the ridiculously priced Heathrow Express, which I think is still £22 for a single now, compared with £3 or £4 on the Underground; it is somewhere in between on TfL trains. The same should happen at Gatwick, because on the Gatwick Express and the Southern services the fare structure is incomprehensible to most people, particularly visitors to this country, and there are so many trains that you do not need the special ones. However, you need some fast services, not just from the capital city but from other places as well. I hope that we can get that to Stansted as well, but as the noble Lord said, it is not just about the track but the tunnel to the airport itself.
There is also a problem around Cambridge, because of the enormous growth in demand, as we know. There are lots of small railways around there which could have services, possibly with a few chords built here and there, to help the communities get into Cambridge to work; that would reduce the traffic congestion in Cambridge itself. Four tracks are therefore essential, as much as we can, between London and the airport. From what I have heard, having talked to some engineers, it is not that difficult. I appreciate that there are level crossings, which will have to be sorted out, but there is space to do it, at least for a good length so you can overtake the slow trains.
That will not happen without some pretty strong pressure from the local authorities all the way up the line, and the users. I understand that Cambridgeshire County Council and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority are keen for public transport offers to Cambridge and Peterborough, an area which stretches as far as Wisbech, March, King’s Lynn, Thetford, Stonemarket, as well as Stansted Airport and Hitchin. There are lots of small routes that could be reinstated, including to Wisbech. The biggest problem is at Ely: stopping trains going north to south—largely the passenger trains—which conflict with the big freight train flows from Felixstowe to the Midlands. A plan to improve that has been around for about 40 years but nothing has been done about it. It is not that expensive but something is needed to enable the freight trains from Felixstowe, whose capacity is constrained by this bottleneck, and passenger trains that may be going on to Wisbech, to get through Ely and to allow the traffic to cross the level crossing there, which is always a problem.
The other issue, which the noble Lord touched on, is new developments. There is one at Mildenhall, a former RAF station. So many of these developments provide lots of lovely housing but with no public transport at all. There has to be a station if possible, and if not a commitment to bus services, although they do not usually last a very long. Therefore, the whole area needs a good looking at, with the local authorities, to improve the corridor.
The climate change issues are serious at the moment, and I hope that the Government will maintain and strengthen their targets. However, they have to have a credible means of doing so, which is not always there at the moment. Department for Transport figures show that congestion is likely to grow by 55% by 2040—the cut-off date for diesel trains and a few other things—but it is hard to think how congestion can get 55% worse in many places. Maybe the Minister has a solution to that. We have to have a solution, but rail is probably the only one that will work.
This is an innovation corridor. It could be a catalyst for doing it all together: a modern, integrated, green transport system for passengers and freight. I hope that the Government will start taking it seriously. In the meantime, I hope that the Minister will take on board some of my comments about the new type of freight, which is completely different. We must apply it to passengers and freight and get some of them off the road if we are to have any chance of achieving the targets.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, for securing this short debate on an important topic. I declare my interest as a resident of Cambridge.
I draw the Minister’s attention, and that of the House, to an important proposal developed by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and its leader, James Palmer, for the Cam Metro, and ask the Minister to support this innovative and ambitious plan. I am told that there are more jobs than people in Cambridge, and I know from experience that the university, Cambridge colleges and the science parks that ring the city are finding it increasingly difficult to attract bright young researchers to Cambridge because of the cost of housing in the city and the poor transport infrastructure. Researchers with young families are being forced to live further and further out of Cambridge in order to afford appropriate homes, and face long commutes, increasingly beyond reasonable cycling distance, by car and bus.
This is not healthy for the city, which is surrounded by blocked roads each morning and vehicles contributing to poor air quality and climate change. It is not healthy for families, when commuting steals so much family time, and it is not healthy for the colleges and the accidental exchanges that can lead to new ideas when young academics no longer participate in college life. The traffic in Cambridge is also making it a less appealing destination for tourists, who make an important contribution to the local and national economy.
The combined authority is developing plans for the Cam Metro: a 160-mile route including six miles of tunnels under Cambridge. It is expected to create 100,000 jobs and support the building of a further 60,000 homes in the area, while taking 44% of cars and 18% of buses off the roads in and around the city. It will link the university, science parks, including Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Royal Papworth Hospital and the biomedical campus, with railway stations and villages out to St Neots and developments at Mildenhall and Haverhill.
The Cam Metro will be innovative. My noble friend Lord Mair, a world-leading civil engineer whose research covers tunnels and stability, has been involved in developing plans for the tunnels, which would showcase sensors and techniques developed by his research centre. The metro would be a fully autonomous, clean, battery electric-powered wheeled tram system running on a dedicated tarmac route, so avoiding the major costs of conventional tram and train infrastructure. The cost of the scheme is estimated to be about £4 billion—far cheaper than any other road or light or heavy rail solutions. It would unlock the important further growth of the region and be linked to east-west rail to support the London, Stansted and Cambridge innovation corridor.
I ask the Minister to offer the Government’s support for this exciting and innovative plan, which would help to ensure that the region can continue to attract the best and brightest young researchers and their families to contribute to innovation and economic growth in the UK.
My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, for bringing this debate to the House today. It is an important issue.
The innovation corridor is an interesting concept and certainly does not lack ambition. Its stated aim, to compete with Silicon Valley, labels it as high in ambition. But it is important not to underestimate the complexity of the situation. This is already a thriving area: the fastest-growing area in the UK. It benefits from above average wages: it has a very high percentage of graduates and a high rate of job growth, and GVA per hour is 20% above the UK average. It is already attracting many innovative companies at the forefront of technology. In addition, it obviously offers a good and pleasant living environment.
So, on paper, it has everything to offer, and it is these kinds of innovative companies and workforce that we have to offer the world if we are ever as a nation to recover from the self-inflicted Brexit wound. I say that from the perspective of a person who very much hopes that we do not leave the EU—but, even if we were to remain in the EU, we have already done ourselves great damage as a nation.
At one end of this corridor is London, one of the world’s great cities; at the other end is Cambridge, one of the world’s great universities; and in the middle is Stansted, providing essential aviation links—essential because if one is to survive and thrive economically in the modern world, aviation is an important aspect of the mix.
But there are difficulties: corridors are much more challenging to develop than mere clusters. Reports on this concept have emphasised the complex governance and the number of local authorities involved along the length of the corridor. This was identified by Professor Enright as early as 2015 as a hurdle that needed to be overcome. As yet, there is no equivalent of Transport for the North for this area to bring the local authorities together.
The infrastructure challenges are various. There is the roads issue that the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, mentioned, and the rail issue that both he and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, emphasised; there is the need for up-to-date and cutting-edge telecommunications and ICT infrastructure; and there is pressure on housing. The brutal truth is that, unless these problems are addressed, all the branding efforts that have been made so far will not make the essential difference that we need. Addressing these problems needs funding as well as co-operation, and government is needed to provide leadership.
For the rest of my speech, I will address specifically transport-related issues. It has already been mentioned that it is proposed that Crossrail 2 should provide additional tracks—the badly needed four-tracking that has been referred to—on the West Anglia main line to enable faster and more frequent services. The National Infrastructure Commission report in 2016 estimated that the West Anglia element of Crossrail 2 would cost £3.7 billion at 2014 prices—clearly more in today’s prices. But it would enable and unlock the development of 80,000 homes.
Crossrail 2 is still at the early stages of consultation, and problems with Crossrail 1 have slightly taken the shine off plans for phase 2. However, if this corridor is to develop successfully, it is essential that Crossrail’s current problems teach us lessons rather than allow the concept of Crossrail 2 to be buried. Further development is also needed at Stratford station, and along the upper Lea Valley.
When preparing for this debate, I thought back to a visit that the committee on which I sit in this place made to a science park near Cambridge. That involved us taking the train and getting off at Cambridge North station—a very successful new development. However, what was brought home to us at the time was the total inadequacy of the current rail line. The train was delayed that day. We waited for five or 10 minutes for it to depart for Cambridge—at which point an announcement was made that the train was not going to stop at half the stations it was supposed to stop at on the way. At that point, half the people on the train got off. They had waited unnecessarily; in fact, they had missed another train in the process. This was just one occasion, but it illustrates very clearly the unreliability of that line. A Network Rail report published in February this year recommended some detailed improvements to the line and recommended that the options should be developed to the strategic outline business case stage. Will these improvements go ahead and on what timescale will further development of the proposals go ahead?
Another issue that should be raised is that, alongside its other aspects, this is a job creation project. As the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, pointed out, this is an area of very low unemployment. When we visited start-ups in the Cambridge area during the meeting I referred to earlier, the heavy reliance on EU citizens for new personnel being taking on as staff was obvious. I am seriously concerned that an inadequate amount of skilled labour will be available at the highly skilled level required for jobs of this kind as a result of the Brexit issues we face.
Finally, I will raise the issue of Stansted Airport. It has great potential for more intensive use and will help to fill the gap that Heathrow is designed to fill but is not yet on stream to do so. Heathrow seems to be developing rather slowly at the moment—but if the rumours are right, we may move to the next stage of the process as a result of announcements tomorrow. We need Stansted to increase the number and availability of flights in the UK coming into the London area. I emphasise that, although Stansted does well in the number of people going there on public transport, it still suffers from a less than adequate train service. It advertises a 47-minute journey, but the average time taken is 54 minutes and some trains take more than an hour. There are 77 trains a day, but fewer on weekends and holidays. Basically, links to Stansted need to be improved along with the rest of the rail line. This needs to be a development fit for the 21st century, with modern solutions, passive housing and a reliance on rail, not road, if it is to be truly successful.
My Lords, the good news is that I may take up fewer than the 10 minutes that I am allowed. Like other noble Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, on securing this debate. He has had an invaluable and proactive involvement in promoting the infrastructure needs of the London-Stansted-Cambridge innovation corridor, not least through his role as chair, unremunerated, of the West Anglia Taskforce and the case made in its report for investment in rail to support growth. I wondered, given what the noble Lord said earlier—not about the confusion but about the fact that some people do not people see the West Anglia line as necessarily being in what they would regard as East Anglia—whether it ought to be called the “West-East Anglia main line” to clarify the situation.
We have heard one word of caution and I am sure other noble Lords have had a briefing from the National Trust, of which I, along with many others, am currently a member. The trust has referred to the significant growth and infrastructure development planned for Cambridgeshire and the surrounding areas through the UK innovation corridor and the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. The trust goes on to say that without proper oversight or a comprehensive approach, the concurrence of two major development projects in the same region increases the likelihood that the developments will fail to protect nature, the countryside and the heritage of the whole region. A more specific concern is about Wimpole Hall and the grade 1 listed parkland in which it sits, which are apparently within both the UK innovation corridor and the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. It would be helpful if the Minister could give some meaningful assurances about the concerns of the National Trust, which has the support of a great many people for what it does, not least older people who are the group most likely to vote. Of course, major projects cannot be allowed to grind to a halt, but neither can we have a free for all for developers over what they can do and where in areas designated for expansion and development.
I shall repeat without apology what the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, says in his foreword to the West Anglia Taskforce report:
“London and the East of England are two of the fastest growing regions in the UK, and the West Anglia Main Line links them together. The railway is essential for bringing jobs, homes and businesses together”.
The taskforce’s terms of reference were to improve connections to an expanding Stansted Airport and Cambridge from Liverpool Street and to encourage opportunities for economic growth along the route, including the expansion of services in the Lea Valley. Some provisions for service improvements, including new trains, were contained in the franchise agreement for Greater Anglia, which the Dutch state-owned company retained in 2016 for another nine years.
The taskforce concentrated on practical and feasible recommendations on cost, impact and effectiveness, and particularly, as has been said, on the need for four-tracking of the line from just south of Tottenham Hale station to just north of Broxbourne station. This is the most pressing need on a line that already suffers performance and capacity-wise, under even the current volume of traffic, from being two-track, a problem that will remain for much of the rest of the line south of Tottenham Hale to nearly into Liverpool Street. Four-tracking of the stretch identified in the report will also be vital if the Crossrail 2 project is to go ahead. On that score, one hopes it has not been seriously blighted by the delays and cost issues now associated with Crossrail 1.
At the launch of the report in late 2016, the then Minister for Rail said that he was impressed by the level of support that the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, had gathered across the political spectrum from local government, national government in the form of the Department for Transport, London government and many companies and private individuals who had come together to support the report. The same Minister then told the Commons in a debate on
“The report also makes a clear and compelling case for action, so it is just the sort I want”.
He went on to say that the report’s recommendations,
“deserve careful consideration. We need to assess them against the case for investment across the network as a whole. The Government will now give the report the consideration it deserves, which will be a thorough and careful assessment, so that we can respond formally next year”.—[
I hope that in her response the Minister will be able to spell out precisely what decisions and actions on transport infrastructure in the London-Stansted-Cambridge innovation corridor the Government—including Network Rail, for which the Government are responsible—have taken on, and in the light of, the recommendations, including on four-tracking, in the taskforce report since that debate in the Commons some two and a half years ago, in view of the enthusiastic response to the report from the then Minister. We shall be able to see from the Government’s reply to this debate whether that enthusiastic response from the Minister has been matched by actions as opposed to words.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Haselhurst on securing this debate and on raising and highlighting the role of the innovation corridor in our nation’s economy. I thank all noble Lords for sharing their insights and—I think no one would disagree—unique expertise in this area.
Many noble Lords raised helpful challenges to the Government’s response to this report, but perhaps it is a rare pleasure to be considering a report that deals with the problems of success. The innovation corridor is one of Britain’s fastest growing regions. It is a hub of knowledge, with world-class universities and cutting-edge clusters of commercial innovation, advanced technology and bioscience. This combination is driving a vibrant, thriving economic success story—one that the Government support and will continue to support in future.
My noble friend has raised his concerns that transport infrastructure may become a barrier to growth in the area, particularly rail capacity on the West Anglia line given the likely continued growth at Stansted and Cambridge. However, as my noble friend is aware, trying to increase capacity on the West Anglia line is not easy without new infrastructure. I appreciate very much his range of suggestions about the ways one might do this. As noble Lords have noted, the railway is already at capacity with today’s rail services, although measures are being taken to try to increase reliability and capacity. I am not sure I will be able to deliver quite the enthusiasm that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, seeks, but I will do my best to set out the work that has been done.
The business case for delivering four-tracking along this route is expected to represent high value for money, if the rest of the proposed Crossrail 2 scheme is built. However, as a stand-alone proposition, analysis suggests that the scheme does not facilitate sufficient additional services to generate the benefits required to offset the capital expenditure. Given the uncertainty around Crossrail 2, we need to identify what can be done in the short to medium term to support growth on the line. I will share two examples with your Lordships.
First, to build on the work already undertaken, Network Rail hopes to undertake a study of the West Anglia main line that will sketch out options for future funders. Secondly, although we do not currently intend to develop a digital signalling scheme—that is difficult to say late at night—on the Anglia route for delivery in the current control period, the 2018 digital railway strategy identified it as a potential candidate for further consideration for delivery in the medium term, meaning in control period 7.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised her concerns about progress with Crossrail 2 and the detrimental effects it might have on the West Anglia main line. She wisely reminded your Lordships’ House of the importance to learn from other schemes in development. Here, I draw the House’s attention to the recent publication by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority on this subject, titled Lessons from Transport for the Sponsorship of Major Projects. The department will consider the report’s findings very carefully.
The Government remain focused on improving the affordability of the Crossrail 2 scheme. In its current form it comes with a large price tag and, as yet, no final decisions have been made. The Government have launched an independent affordability review, chaired by Mike Gerrard, which is making good progress, and the department and Transport for London received initial recommendations for further work on this. This further work is now completed and will inform the next steps of the project and the completion of the review.
Recognising the constraints on providing new infrastructure, as I have mentioned, in the meantime measures are being taken to try to increase reliability and capacity, not least the £1.4 billion investment in a brand new fleet of trains for every single service and route that Greater Anglia operates across the entire network. The trains will be phased in during 2019-20, with the first trains running on the Stansted Express route from summer 2019.
A number of noble Lords raised concerns about the ability to support growth at Stansted. The Government are sensitive to those concerns and are working through our longer-term aviation strategy to make sure that the infrastructure needs of the aviation industry are met.
The important points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about carbon reduction and the potential to move freight from the roads on to the rail network were well made. I draw the noble Lord’s attention to our recent strategy on the future of urban mobility, which has a big focus on carbon reduction and active travel.
I will mention some of the ways in which the department is supporting growth in this important corridor but, before I do that, I will respond to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about the points made by the National Trust. We are aware of the National Trust’s concerns about the development of infrastructure in the corridor, and those delivering that infrastructure will engage with the National Trust during the consultation process and will continue working with it as plans develop to make sure that its views are taken into account. We were pleased to see that the National Trust acknowledged the work in the environment Bill to make sure that a net gain for biodiversity is part of such projects.
Recognising the importance of infrastructure in supporting economic growth and prosperity, the Government are providing significant funding to enhance journeys and connectivity. For example, we are upgrading a 21-mile section of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon. This new road, which is due to be completed by the end of 2020, will cut a significant amount of time from journeys. We will also seek to cut journey times around Harlow by building new junction 7A on the M11—I hope your Lordships have a map in your minds—and will continue further investment on the M11 in future road programmes. I undertake to write to my noble friend regarding the issues he raised in relation to junction 8.
We also recognise the importance of rail as a key transport element connecting the region to its innovative business clusters and international gateways. We recognise that needs change as an area develops and so Network Rail has recently undertaken the Cambridge corridor study, which identified a series of infrastructure improvements to accommodate the expected growth across the railway in and around Cambridgeshire over the next 15 to 25 years, and will allow funders to make informed decisions about planning the network for the years to come.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked where we were in the decision-making process. Obviously, these ideas are at a very early stage of development and the study does not make any assumptions about which organisation, if any, will fund the proposals, so it is too early for the department to say which schemes we will do and who might fund them. As soon as plans for that are available, we will share them.
Another example of development work we are engaging with in the area is the considerable interest and support for new stations in Cambridgeshire. The Department for Transport has partnered with three local partners—AstraZeneca, the Greater Cambridge Partnership and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority—to fund Network Rail to design proposals for a new Cambridge south station, which would primarily serve Cambridge Biomedical Campus. The Government are also supporting Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority with a £95 million investment over five years through the department’s Transforming Cities Fund, which will transform connectivity in the combined authority through a range of investments in transport and infrastructure.
In response to the request by the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, for the Government to support the CAM scheme that is being developed, I will mention it to Ministers and make sure that they are aware that the plans are being worked up.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made the point that transport needs need to be taken into account when supporting housing growth in an area, and that is what the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund is aiming to do. Two housing infrastructure funds from the corridor have been successful. One is the Docklands Light Railway scheme, which has been allocated £290 million, and the other is the Cambridge north-eastern fringe scheme, which has been allocated £227 million. Finally, we are supporting local enterprise partnerships in the corridor to improve transport links within the region.
In conclusion, while I recognise the concerns raised by my noble friend and other noble Lords around the West Anglia main line, I hope I have gone some way to reassure him that the innovation corridor is recognised for its contribution to the nation’s economy, and while further progress is made with Crossrail 2, the corridor is being supported by significant investment in the interim. The aim of that investment is to improve connectivity and to deliver the vision of a more integrated, reliable, safe, reduced-carbon transport network that supports the continuing growth of the economy within the innovation corridor.
The Minister referred to the new trains, which, as I understand it, were part of the franchise renewal for Abellio in 2016. Although that is genuinely most welcome, do the Government accept that new trains have a limited impact on serious track capacity constraints on the West Anglia line, particularly at peak times, and that track capacity is a Network Rail matter? The Government are responsible for Network Rail and presumably can do something about it.
The noble Lord is right that to maximise the impact of new trains, one would need more track, but I hope that I have explained the limitations on doing that in the short term. Obviously, there are other advantages from new trains, such as improving the speed of journeys, but the noble Lord makes a fair point that one would need more track in order to maximise the impact.
House adjourned at 9.39 pm.