A5 Upgrade

Part of Palestinian Children and Israeli Military Detention – in Westminster Hall at 5:26 pm on 7th February 2018.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 5:26 pm, 7th February 2018

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr McCabe. I congratulate David Tredinnick on not only giving us an incredibly good history lesson today, but extolling the virtues of all that is planned for his constituency and the surrounding area.

When we are talking about the scale of 60,000 new homes, we have to have a serious discussion about whether we are just talking about development of a new express way, or if we need to look at other modes of transport that are available for local communities as well. If we are talking about that scale of economic opportunity, particularly with the developments that we have heard about this afternoon and the potential of 3,000 new jobs, we need to think about how people are travelling to and from work. While the road provides one option, I think that where we are building significant new developments we also need to start exploring other modes, particularly the future of rail.

As Craig Tracey just highlighted, HS2 should be about creating new opportunity, as opposed to limiting choices for people in the area. If HS2 does not open up new opportunities and does not connect, we have to ask serious questions about what the point of it is in the first place. Although we can see that new stations in places such as Toton will provide new economic development, we need to make sure that everybody along the route benefits from greater connectivity. That will be absolutely essential as we scrutinise the route’s development, the plans moving forward, and the connectivity.

I believe that a very strong case has been put forward this afternoon by hon. Members. I wonder if the costing of £10 million will be the final sum proposed. It sounds like a rather small amount of money, so I was a bit confused by that sum. We know that improvements to roads are incredibly important. Alberto Costa spoke about removing the rat runs from the villages, as they create such a nuisance. We heard about the distress of constituents over delays, which Mark Pawsey highlighted. Delays do not just eat into a person’s evenings, night after night; they also affect whether someone gets the chance to get home to see their kids in the evening. For some, it will mean whether they can chose to go for a particular form of employment. It is therefore really important that all factors are considered when looking at new developments.

The other important point made by a number of hon. Members was on safety. Although capacity is vital and should be looked at in the future, travel safety has to be the prime consideration. Road improvements, whether changing the camber on the road or providing safe access on and off the highway, are vital. I am sure the Minister will hear that.

I also want to draw out the process of decision making. I have several concerns about phase 1 of the road investment strategy. Although hon. Members may well have put forward a strong case today, we know that a number of projects have been delayed in phase 1. Nineteen schemes have been pushed back into RIS 2, which means that resource that could have been dedicated to the project highlighted today—the expressway—could be delayed in further planning and payment processes. We need to look at that. Six schemes have been cancelled altogether—or, I should say, “paused for further review”. Sixteen projects have been delayed within the RIS 1 period, and there is a bunching up of 54 projects at the end of the phase. That clearly has an impact on the ability to deliver the programme at the end of the phase, in 2019-20 in particular.

In recruitment and skills, we are also seeing feast and famine across the construction sector that we really need to look at. We also need to make sure that we are able to recruit and train locally. The feast-and-famine approach means that people have to go further afield, and as a result, the costs of projects go up.

I would like the Minister to commit to moving on from that feast-and-famine approach—not least because it builds expectations from constituents. When the de-electrification of the trans-Pennine route was announced, I know from my own constituents how hope in the project plummeted. It is really important to do due diligence now, to make sure that every mode of transport has been explored to bring the best economic value into the midlands area. If there is a commitment, it is important they are adhered to in a timely way. We cannot have overprogramming and overpromising, then a deletion of expectation. I trust the Minister will speak to that in his contribution.