I beg to move,
That this House
has considered investment in regional transport infrastructure.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I declare an interest as Mayor of the Sheffield city region and as a board member of Transport for the North.
This debate comes at a critical moment in our country’s history and for Britain’s regions. While the debate is about investment in our regional transport infrastructure, it is also about fairness and equality of opportunity for all parts of our country, because getting the right transport infrastructure in place will determine the ability of different parts of the country to contribute to national prosperity, as we face the future. If we believe in social mobility, we must ensure practical mobility, so that people can move around to access opportunities. Connecting people with the places that they need to go to is critical if we are to connect our nation’s most talented people with the opportunities that will enable them to reach their potential.
Our country finds itself at a crossroads. We must not lose sight of the fact that in 2016 a huge number of citizens participated in one of the most important democratic exercises in our recent history: they voted for Britain to leave the European Union. I do not claim to hold all the answers as to why they did that—none of us should—because there is no overarching or unifying theory that can explain the Brexit vote. The referendum campaign became about immigration, national sovereignty, our international relationships and trade, but it was also about how well our democracy and our politics had responded to the challenges and concerns that people face in their daily and working lives.
The answer that we got was that the status quo was simply not delivering for many parts of our country, and that people wanted change. That is entirely understandable, because in places like Barnsley, which I represent, and south Yorkshire, there is an overwhelming sense of frustration that for too long the decisions made by successive Governments have not gone nearly far enough to match the aspirations and expectations of residents, nor addressed the long-term structural barriers that have held communities back from reaching their potential. Alongside that is an increasing concern that for too long Britain’s regions and nations, outside London and the south-east, have not seen their fair share of investment.
I emphasise the phrase “Britain’s regions”, which I am always careful to use, because it is not about the north versus the south. Communities in the south-west, the midlands, the east of England, the north-east and the north-west, and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, are as relevant to this debate as the communities in Yorkshire that I am proud to represent. This is not about north versus south—in fact, when it comes to transport infrastructure, the divide is often more east-west than north-south—but about the fact that city-led development has meant that growth has not been inclusive for those living outside the reach of cities.
The ink-spot approach to regional development has failed to serve many of our people and our economy. Our economic strategy has been too city-centric and dependent on the hope that wealth will trickle down and ripple out.
I agree with everything my hon. Friend is saying and I congratulate him on securing this debate. I appreciate that it is about the way that we invest, as much as where we invest. Does he agree that some of the expensive national infrastructure investment that has taken place risks alienating areas that are not regionally connected to that investment, no matter where they are in the country? For example, with HS2 there is no confirmation from the Government that the line north of York will be upgraded, which will make parts of the north even further away from that national infrastructure investment, rather than benefiting from HS2.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. If this Government—or any Government—want to be taken seriously about investing in infrastructure that will benefit all parts of the country, it is absolutely right that they take into account the important and reasonable point that she makes.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Does he agree that the Government need to commit to and invest in schemes that will benefit regions? For example, the western rail link to Heathrow—which the Government committed to in 2012, but about which they have since been dragging their feet—would benefit not only my constituency in Slough, but Wales, the south-west, the west and the south-east. It would mean that 20% of the UK population would be within one interchange of the Heathrow hub airport. Should the Government be dragging their feet or should they finally be taking some action?
My hon. Friend makes an important point, for which I am grateful. The Minister will have heard him, and perhaps he will respond later.
In rural, semi-rural or coastal areas, and in areas such as former coalfield communities like the one that I am proud to represent, there is undoubtedly a strong sense that residents feel cut off from the major centres of growth. That is partly because across our regions we have a transport system that is disjointed and serves neither communities nor businesses as well as it should.
I, too, represent a coalfield community and can relate to what my hon. Friend is saying. One or two trains per hour serve the stations in my constituency, but two of the three stations that constituents might use have no disabled access, which means that parents with prams also struggle to use them. It is not north versus south, but it often feels like town versus city.
My hon. Friend makes an important point and I will say something about the criteria that determine national infrastructure spend later. I am conscious that there will be people who will not necessarily be riveted by a debate about the criteria that determine national infrastructure spend, but as my hon. Friend clearly articulated, these are incredibly important matters that impact hugely on the lives that our constituents lead.
I thank my hon. Friend for securing the debate and for his incredibly powerful opening speech. In Batley and Spen, we have one railway station, so would he agree that buses are needed more than ever before? With the recent shake-up of the timetable, we are getting fast buses into the cities but we are not getting connectivity between communities, which, as he has said, leaves some communities increasingly isolated.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend and Yorkshire neighbour for that important intervention. I was hoping someone would refer to buses. Debates of this nature traditionally tend to focus on rail, but the reality for many of our constituents is that buses are a lifeline that enable them to go and do the things they need to do, whether that is travel to work, access vital public services or travel in their leisure time.
I was delighted that a week ago my hon. Friend Mr Betts, who is not here, agreed to conduct an independent review of bus services in south Yorkshire. That provides an exciting opportunity to look carefully at the issue of bus services. My hon. Friend Tracy Brabin will know that the number of people using bus services has fallen significantly in recent years. In south Yorkshire, we will look carefully at the reasons for that and look at how we can improve the bus services, which are a lifeline to many constituents.
The last two interventions highlight an important point: many people around our country feel disempowered and alienated, and that raises a big question about how we give people a stake in their communities and in our country as a whole. I believe the answer to that lies partly in how we respond to people’s concerns about Britain’s regional divide. We must respond to those concerns by strengthening our regional policy so that we have a joined-up approach to addressing the systemic structural imbalances in our economy.
We have before us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put that right, and I believe that collectively we must rise to that challenge. As we face the future, we need to have all parts of our country contributing to Britain’s national prosperity. We in the north are prepared to do our bit, but the Government must in turn recognise the crucial role that transport infrastructure will play in helping us to do so.
Roads and railways are the lifeblood of our economy. They are vital in connecting people with the places they want to go for work, access to public services and leisure. If we are to address the long-term structural imbalances in our country’s economy so that we have stronger networks between towns, cities and rural locations, we must have a serious programme of investment in our transport infrastructure. That must include investment in innovative technologies such as tram-train, the first of which we have in south Yorkshire, running between Sheffield and Rotherham.
Integrated with all that is the need to do all we can to promote active travel as a means of getting out and about within our towns and cities. I know the Minister will be supportive of that. Chris Boardman has been doing a sterling job as Mayor Andy Burnham’s walking and cycling commissioner in Greater Manchester. I will soon be announcing the appointment of an active travel commissioner for the Sheffield city region, and I have received confirmation that the next Transport for the North board meeting in April will, for the first time, include discussion of active travel, which I very much welcome.
Active travel is not about telling residents that they should ditch their cars or public transport, but about giving them the option to lead healthier, more active lives by investing in infrastructure to encourage more sustainable transport, walking and cycling—maybe even running, but we will see how that one goes.
We know the benefits of having strong transport networks in place around good economic infrastructure. Commuters find it easier to access sites of employment. Businesses can shift their goods to both domestic and international markets. Strong transport infrastructure is a key driver of both productivity and growth, but, unfortunately, too many communities across the north know all too well the consequences of poor connectivity. It has an impact on residents living in rural and semi-rural areas, who struggle to access the major sites of employment. It constrains the reach of our businesses, wastes the talent and skills of our workforce, and stifles our competitiveness. It is a drag on our productivity.
When we get this right, we can make a real difference. I will give an example of where we have done that. The Great Yorkshire Way is a stretch of road built to link up Doncaster Sheffield airport with the M18. The last mile of the Great Yorkshire Way is the most significant mile of road built in south Yorkshire for decades. From an initial investment of £56 million, with both the public and the private sectors working together, our region unlocked £1.8 billion-worth of investment, creating 1,200 jobs, supporting national airport capacity by delivering airport growth, and aiding the development of iPort, which is one of the UK’s largest logistics developments. All of that was achieved while regenerating a former colliery community.
In order to achieve our potential, the north’s existing and future economic clusters must be better connected.
Like others, I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing this important debate to the Chamber. He makes a powerful argument, particularly in favour of infrastructure support for all regions. In the north, one of the most important infrastructure support projects is Northern Powerhouse Rail, but unfortunately it is reliant on the successful completion of HS2, which itself is in doubt. Does he agree that we need these projects to go ahead regardless and not be reliant on London-based projects?
Before I do, I will give another example of how we can achieve growth as a result of investment in regional transport infrastructure: the plan for an east coast main line link-up with Doncaster Sheffield airport. The creation of a station serving the airport has so much potential. It will support the expansion of the airport, create a major economic hub around it and make a further contribution to the UK’s national aviation capacity.
Better connecting our communities and neighbourhoods is how we give people the means to get from where they live to the economic opportunities that are being created around us. It is how we give businesses the means to shift their goods from one place to another in the most cost-effective and efficient way. The truth of the matter is, though, that there are not enough instances where we have managed to achieve those things, because despite having the ambition, we have not had the investment.
Transport for the North has a key role to play in looking at how we can make significant improvements right across the north of England. Last month, the Transport for the North board signed off its strategic transport plan, which calls for an ambitious and bold £70 billion programme of investment in the north’s transport networks. We also agreed the strategic outline business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail, which my hon. Friend Imran Hussain just referred to, and which will better connect Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Hull and Newcastle.
TfN’s plans are hugely significant, because they remind us of what we are working towards: a transport network that fully integrates all parts of the north, connects our people and businesses with opportunities both within and beyond our great towns and cities, and transforms our economy so that it works better for the 15 million residents of the north. I take the opportunity today to ask the Minister, when he responds to this debate, to say something about how the Government intend to resource those important plans. As he will know, leaders across the north have agreed to a plan that will make a meaningful and lasting difference, but we now need the Government to get behind it and support it.
The situation we find ourselves in is underpinned by a systemic unfairness in the way that the Treasury allocates funding for major projects. The current Green Book criteria used by Government are automatically skewed toward better-performing areas, because they naturally favour areas with lots of latent demand, but do not properly recognise that transport infrastructure is a stimulus for economic growth and supports the growth of new demand as well as being a response to existing demand.
Looking at the Government’s own figures, for every £1 of public infrastructure investment spent on transport across Yorkshire and the Humber, £3.20 is spent on London’s transport networks. I am not suggesting that London should have less spent on its transport infrastructure; not only would I be in big trouble with Mayor Sadiq Khan, but investment is critical in maintaining our capital city’s vital transport networks. What I am saying is that, across Britain’s regions, we simply have not had anywhere near enough of what is required to begin to address our economic challenges.
The Government have been talking a lot about issues surrounding regional inequality, industrial strategy, growth and productivity, but if we are not prepared to make investments on the scale that is needed, we will fail to meet the productivity challenge the Government have set. The second question I would like the Minister to address today is whether he will look at the Green Book criteria with his colleagues at the Treasury, so that he can satisfy himself that the funding allocation is fair.
I represent a small but beautiful island, and we are in exactly the same iniquitous position with Green Book funding. Because we are an island, we cannot use Portsmouth or Southampton in our argument; they are the wrong side of the Solent. It is not only the hon. Gentleman’s area that suffers but mine as well.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. He is making some important points. As a midlander, I class my constituency as being northern. I will give the hon. Gentleman some hope: we were able to secure more than £50 million of funding in my constituency to improve the A50. The Government put that money up and it is making a real difference. He is absolutely right about engaging with the Government and the Treasury. I am the proof of the pudding that the Government want to improve infrastructure in the north.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. I hope other hon. Members take it as their cue to make similar representations on projects for which they seek funding, and I hope that the Government will give them the same support that they have given the hon. Gentleman.
I will make one final point on the importance of devolution. There is little point in giving regions the funding if we do not have the robust frameworks through which to decide where best to spend those resources. I know that my Yorkshire neighbour, Kevin Hollinrake, gives a huge amount of consideration to that. He knows, as I do, that there is great potential in Yorkshire. The Great Yorkshire Way shows the power that investment can have in unlocking possibilities for businesses and communities across our region.
We also know that political leaders in the north are ready, as they have shown in recent weeks and months, to work constructively together and with stakeholders to make a real difference. We have seen great enthusiasm for devolution in Yorkshire; not everyone in this room is entirely convinced, but I am working on them.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. He tempts me on devolution. I am absolutely committed to devolution in Yorkshire, but we have to get the right type of devolution. He is a trailblazer with the city region devolution deal that he has struck with the Government. Does he agree that the best form of devolution to Yorkshire would be on a city region basis, including to Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and York?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, which he has made with consistency and clarity over a number of years. I always enjoy having that debate, as we will be having in Leeds on Friday, although I am not sure whether he will be there.
I extend an invitation to him. There is an important debate to be had about Yorkshire devolution, and I was pleased to meet not only the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government but the Government Chief Whip at Fountains Abbey on Friday to discuss it. I think we agree that there is an absolute requirement to move as quickly as possible to put in place a system of devolution that will best serve our great county. We may not be able to agree on precisely what that is today, but it is important that we reach agreement in the near future.
When thinking about regional transport infrastructure, we should be guided by the simple principle that we should connect our people to the places that they want to go for work, to access public services and for leisure, creating opportunities where we can and connecting people to them. That is how we give people a stake in their communities and in our country.
As we prepare for the future and life beyond the Brexit debate, all our regions and nations must be given the very best opportunity to contribute to our national prosperity. If we do not invest in regional transport infrastructure, we will not give the people we serve the tools they need to thrive, nor will we answer the concerns that motivated people to vote leave in the referendum. However, we can only do that if the Government support us. There are real opportunities before the Minister to help us to do that. I hope he takes them up.
I am sure that Members can see how many people wish to speak. I suggest that, out of consideration for each other, Members limit their speeches to about three minutes. I will not impose a time limit; I will leave it to Members.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan, and to follow Dan Jarvis. I thank him for securing the debate. I will touch briefly on devolution, which has proven to be the most intractable political situation in Yorkshire—much more so than Brexit—over the past five or 10 years. However, I am sure that there is a way forward, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is crucial that we find it, so that we can properly exert our influence over central Government on hugely important matters, such as transport investment in our counties.
As the Chancellor admitted in his Budget speech in November 2016, no other major developed country has as large a productivity gap between its capital and its second and third cities as the UK. We are the most regionally imbalanced nation, which is a huge issue that we must deal with. London is 50% more productive than the regions of England—not only the north—and has 50% higher wages, on average, than the north. There is a direct correlation there. This is not about spending for spending’s sake; it is about the prosperity of the people we represent. There is no doubt that infrastructure spending has been disproportionately higher in the capital than in the regions, and redressing that imbalance will transform the economy right across the UK.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, in seeking to redress that imbalance, it is critical to present an ask, as it were, to the Department for Transport? When the Cheltenham cyber-park needed transport infrastructure, the Department provided £22 million, showing that, where there is a clear goal to improve infrastructure, it is keen to help where it can.
I totally agree. I will come shortly to the clear ask, which has been set out for us by Transport for the North.
The Government are doing much. By 2021, infrastructure investment spending as a percentage of GDP will be at its highest for the last 30 years, while the national productivity investment fund will increase to £37 billion by 2023-24. The Government recognise that this is an issue. We must always make sure that we spend wisely and, in many cases, the minimum amount, because this is taxpayers’ money.
However, in my view there is a difference between recurrent spending—much of which is important but which we clearly have to keep under control, making sure that we run a surplus, rather than a deficit—and investment spending. A business would treat the two things differently in its accounts. Businesses have balance sheets and they also look at profit and loss. Investment spending goes on the balance sheet. We should look at investment spending in our regions in a completely different light from other types of spending, particularly in the north.
I support Transport for the North’s recent strategic plan. The hon. Member for Barnsley Central rightly referred to £3 being spent per capita in London for every £1 spent per capita in the north. However, it is not all to do with central Government spending or central allocations. Much of it is about local authority spending and private sector investment. It is important that we recognise that difference. Nevertheless, Transport for the North’s strategic transport plan sets out very clearly the £70 billion of spending needed between now and 2050, which would contribute an extra £100 billion gross value added to our economy and 850,000 jobs. That is a compelling case, as my hon. Friend Alex Chalk referred to earlier.
Yes, part of it is about Northern Powerhouse Rail, which is so important to connect Liverpool to Manchester, to Bradford, to Leeds, to Hull and to Scarborough, and to go up into the north-east as well, but when that is delivered is also key. I would like my hon. Friend the Minister to consider, if possible, in his closing remarks when Northern Powerhouse Rail will be delivered, because the key ask in the Transport for the North strategic plan is that it be delivered to coincide with High Speed 2 delivery in 2033, and that would involve bringing forward the very important Northern Powerhouse Rail plan.
I again congratulate the hon. Member for Barnsley Central on initiating the debate. I look forward to listening to further contributions.
It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Ms Ryan. I thank my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis for securing this important debate.
Since becoming Lincoln’s MP, I have consistently been told that Lincoln’s transport infrastructure does not work effectively for those who use it. I am working hard with local stakeholders to create a vision of a better connected Lincoln. I wanted to know how residents thought that transport in Lincoln could be improved, so I did two things: I held a community engagement event, and I sent out a survey locally. The survey showed that people in Lincoln are currently not engaging with the public transport options available to them and therefore car travel is by far the most common way of travelling in the city. Residents expressed concerns about the value for money and punctuality of local transport. When I asked what would incentivise public transport use, “lower fares” was by far the most popular response. That is not surprising, because in the last year local bus fares in England have risen by 2.8%, increasing faster than wages and inflation.
The Government’s austerity agenda has meant that, since 2010, bus budgets have been cut by 45%, leading to thousands of routes being cut or withdrawn, and last year saw the lowest level of bus journeys per head on record. The concerns raised by my constituents reflect the fact that, under this Government, Lincolnshire’s transport infrastructure has consistently been neglected. Analysis last year by the Institute for Public Policy Research found that London was allocated more than three and a half times more transport funding per capita than the east midlands. My constituents deserve just as much investment as people living in London, but this Government have facilitated an unacceptable rise in regional inequalities.
Before the railways were privatised, our city had direct services to Birmingham, Coventry, Crewe and Chester. Those have all disappeared over the past 30 years. That is the logic of our fragmented and privatised public services: regional transport links become more unprofitable and are therefore discontinued. Shareholders are protected while people and our communities lose out.
Lincoln lacks the strategic service that might be expected for a city of its size. It has a very limited service to London and no east-west services running beyond Nottingham. Along with Lord Patrick Cormack, I have campaigned for the promise of extra trains from London to Lincoln later this year to be honoured, and we are keeping our fingers crossed on that one, but there are currently no clear plans for the improvement of east-west services beyond Nottingham.
Local stakeholders unanimously agree that electrification of the joint line between Peterborough, Spalding, Lincoln and Doncaster would be hugely beneficial in improving our regional interconnectivity, but a Network Rail report last year predicted that any upgrades were not to be expected until after the 2030s, once HS2 has been completed. I can see the benefit of improving transport to and from London, but I think that this Government often forget that not every journey in the UK goes through our capital.
Over the past 20 years there have been relatively few changes to Lincolnshire’s rail network, and almost no service enhancements or changes to the rolling stock. Economic modelling by the Greater Lincolnshire local enterprise partnership indicated that improvements in rail services would lead to substantial benefits to our regional and national economy. Merely bringing existing services up to Network Rail’s “good” standard could bring about a £34 million increase in GDP per year, and improvements in line with the best equivalent services in the UK could be worth as much as £167 million. That shows that investing in our regional transport infrastructure can set in motion a virtuous cycle of prosperity that benefits commuters, businesses and residents, but the Government refuse to recognise that.
It is clear that this Government have consistently neglected Lincolnshire’s transport infrastructure, along with every other region outside London. Like many of my colleagues, I will continue to work hard to deliver improvements that are in line with the wants and needs of my local community, but it is difficult to do that when we have one hand tied behind our back by a fragmented, shareholder-driven, privatised system and the other hand tied by a Government who refuse to distribute transport investment fairly across all regions of the UK.
I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this important debate, won by Dan Jarvis, on investment in regional transport infrastructure. I believe that there is a powerful good news story on this. It is not unalloyed, not perfect, not quite as good as we would like it to be, but it is still very positive overall. When I was growing up in Liverpool, we used to be able to look over at Runcorn bridge. Runcorn bridge had not been upgraded—it had been over capacity for decades. That was the result of under-investment by Governments of both colours. It was fantastic to see the Mersey Gateway being delivered, a £1.2 billion investment—
I will not take an intervention because of the time constraints, but I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the tolls that have been put on the bridge. I would rather that had not been done, because it is a major local concern. However, that upgrade should have been delivered decades ago.
We also have Liverpool2—a £400 million investment in the docks. That is an immense commitment from a private company, but there is an understanding that, economically, the country is going in the right direction. A company has to have confidence in the future of the country, the economic prosperity of the country and the manufacturing in a country in order to invest £400 million in a new docks system, and I understand that it wants to upgrade that further.
It is very positive that electrification has gone ahead between Liverpool and Manchester. The project is ongoing between Manchester and Preston. It has suffered too many delays, which are very disappointing for my commuters. However, the hon. Member for Barnsley Central was right to highlight that this is not just about connecting cities; it is about connecting communities, such as Blackrod, Horwich and Lostock in my constituency. The electrification project will join them together or provide an enhanced service once it is completed.
People are looking into extending the tram-train system out to Hag Fold, Atherton and Daisy Hill, which would be a further advantage for my constituents, making them better connected and making work more accessible. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will maintain his focus on—and ensure that the Government’s focus is on—the central importance of the northern powerhouse. Fundamentally, it is about connectivity. It is about having that wealth of talent in the north-west, and indeed across the north of England, and ensuring that those in that pool of talent can work together, so that we can attract the best businesses and give our young people the best opportunities.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I will try desperately hard to confine my comments to just three minutes. I would like to start by being kind to the Minister and thanking him for his personal support in getting the A63 project working in Hull. That has been 20 years coming—for 20 years it has been a battle to get the bridge built and the A63 work done. I am thanking the Minister partly because I want that support and help to continue until the project is completely finished—I hope to buy myself some favours there.
Hull does have a bright future. In 2017 it was the UK city of culture, described as
“a city coming out of the shadows”.
Some people describe that as the end of the line, but I say it was just the beginning, because what better place could there be to start than in the city of Hull? To keep that going and stop talent leaving our city—to enable people to stay there, live there, work there, be successful and reach their potential—we desperately need more money for our infrastructure; for our roads and railway. The Minister is already supporting us with the roads, so I will comment briefly on the need to support us with the railway. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones, is coming up to Hull to look at the railway.
I fully support what my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis said about Transport for the North’s proposal and the desperate need for Northern Powerhouse Rail to link up with Hull. We desperately need a direct service from Hull all the way through to Manchester City airport. We would also like more frequent trains to go through to Leeds. Some constituents living in my city work in Leeds, and they now feel compelled to move to Leeds because of the problems with the transport links and infrastructure. I want to press the Minister on that.
I also want to press the Minister for a little more cash, please, but for a different road this time: Calvert Lane in Hull, which is in desperate need of complete remodelling. The ongoing work on the A63, which I am eternally grateful for, as he knows, has created additional pressure and traffic chaos at times in the city, and also huge problems with air pollution. Hull bid for the transforming cities fund but was unsuccessful, so if the Minister could look kindly upon Hull again and perhaps reach down the back of the sofa and find us some more cash for Calvert Lane, I would be very grateful for that as well.
Hull has a great future, but the money needed for our transport infrastructure is desperately overdue, and what better time to start giving us more cash than today?
I thank Dan Jarvis for securing this genuinely important debate. I shall be brief. I apologise for being a bit late, Ms Ryan.
First, I would love Ministers to look at the ferry duopoly on the Solent. It is the most expensive ferry route in the world, and many issues that relate to the ownership of the two ferry companies are not necessarily in the public interest and help to sustain the very high fares that Islanders are forced to pay. There is also the issue of the debt that is loaded on to at least one of those companies.
Secondly, Island Line is not the longest railway line in the world, but it is nevertheless the line from Ryde Pier Head down to Shanklin, which is very important for Islanders. I am grateful to the Minster for his Ministry’s kind support in pledging to rebuild Ryde railway pier. However, there is foot-dragging on the priced option for Island Line. The amounts of money are tiny compared with the very large sums going to other regions. At the moment, travelling on Island Line is almost the rail equivalent of travelling in a Land Rover over a reasonably rough bridleway. It needs significant infrastructure work on the track, signalling and rolling stock.
There was something approaching uproar when we learnt that Newcastle’s rolling stock was 40 years old. Without sounding like something out of a Monty Python sketch, what I would give for rolling stock that is 40 years old! We have 10 Northern line carriages from 1938. As part of the modernisation for the priced option, if the Minister is generous enough, we will get refurbished 40-year-old rolling stock, which we will be more than happy with—it will be 41 years younger than the 81-year-old rolling stock we currently have. I hope I can press my hon. Friend the Minister to be generous.
Finally, I want to mention Southern railway. I really hope that HS2 is not diverting funds to every other rail project in the country. We should have proceeded with HS3, the northern high-speed railway, which is, as the Americans say, a no-brainer, rather than build a £100 billion route from London to Birmingham, which I am not sure we need—perhaps some of my colleagues disagree. Because of that, I am concerned that the main line routes to Portsmouth and Southampton will not get the attention they deserve. What I find most staggering is the speed of the London to Portsmouth express train service: currently 47 miles an hour, which is slower than it was in the 1920s. Will the Minister look at some of the examples of where a little bit of impetus from him and the Department for Transport would reap real benefits for our economy in the Southampton-Portsmouth conurbation, and especially in my constituency?
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Ryan, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis on securing the debate.
I chair the all-party group on the east of England. Although I fully understand the arguments made by colleagues about disparities in regional funding, and I know that some will argue that the south in general does well, I ask people to look a little deeper, particularly at the east. The east of England region has enjoyed significant growth over the years and is a net contributor to the Treasury, with great innovation hubs, but there are substantial challenges, almost all based around transport and housing. Despite considerable effort in different parts of the region, that continues to be a struggle. I pay tribute to those who developed the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough independent economic review, but still the answers often depend on unlocking the investment levers that sit in the Treasury.
I want to flag up a couple of positive suggestions that might help. Since coming to the House, I have strongly supported the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium and the West Anglia Taskforce, which has made a powerful case for rail improvements in the corridor, including sections of four-tracking. The case remains strong, but there are still considerable challenges to achieving it, so it is worth looking at other options.
I have been told that digital signalling across the eastern region could make a huge difference. The cost is £1 billion—a lot of money—and this does not necessarily make old, unreliable infrastructure any more reliable, but it can make better use of what we have. I am told that it could increase reliability and frequency, such that it could take up to 10 to 12 minutes off the Stansted to Liverpool Street journey: completely transformative in terms of our transport connections within the region.
For understandable reasons, I take Cambridge to be the centre of our transport hubs within the region, and I want to see better connectivity to the east. I also want to look west, having already looked south. There is much debate about the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor, or CaMKOx, as it is likely to be called. To make the best use of it we will need much better regional co-ordination, but observers as esteemed as Sir John Armitt have pointed out that the plethora of organisations along the arc makes that extremely difficult.
I am grateful to England’s Economic Heartland, which has suggested that a geographically-specific national policy statement might be considered. Such statements were established by the Planning Act 2008 and are introduced for major projects. It might be innovative to use a geographically-specific NPS to bring together infrastructure requirements, but that is not without precedent and there is a sound legal basis. As a member of the Transport Committee that looked in detail at the Heathrow NPS, I really can see the value of such a process. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on that suggestion.
As we see the northern powerhouse, the midlands engine and other regions of the country come together to campaign on these issues, it is clear that this is a question not just of investment, but of how the investment is made. I do not want to see the south and the east get left behind in this new world.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak, Ms Ryan, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis on securing this important debate.
The figures are plain to see, and I am afraid I cannot agree with Andrew Griffiths. I am sure the level of investment in the year ’50 was wonderful; it certainly is not in the year ’19. My issue for the Minister is fairness. We have seen tables produced by the Library detailing the inequalities in investment between London and the south-east and the northern regions, particularly the north-east. It is clear that there is a question of fairness.
I know figures are manipulated. Yesterday, I attended a debate on school funding and there were arguments about whether funding for schools has increased and, depending on which baseline is used, whether local government funding has increased, but I want to talk about the actual experience of my constituents. We have very old Pacer trains, overcrowding and a lack of resilience on the A19, which is the main arterial route that serves my constituency. It is a potential engine of growth that is so important to the future prosperity of the region. There are accidents on a weekly basis—on a daily basis, when the weather is inclement—and that causes massive disruption. We really need the Government to look carefully at where money is spent. They have a moral and political obligation to tackle the inequalities in investment with regard to the older industrial areas—mine is a former coalmining area—that are being left behind, and they have an opportunity to address that inequality.
I do not want to delay things by making a lengthy reply, but everything is political in this place and, whatever has gone on before, there is an opportunity to put things right now. I appeal to the Minister in the interest of fairness to address some of the fundamental issues. This is not a pipe dream. It is important, and it is about a vital part of the national infrastructure. Please do not leave the north-east behind.
I congratulate Dan Jarvis on bringing the matter forward.
We all know that a rising tide floats all ships, and certainly investing in infrastructure means that all the businesses in the vicinity are winners. Declining to invest in infrastructure means retaining a situation where rural communities are socially isolated, contributing to over-reliance on towns. The main town in my constituency, Newtownards, lies just short of 10 miles from Belfast City airport—the journey takes less than 20 minutes—yet I fear that my town does not benefit as it should from proximity to the airport, and the business and tourism that that should attract. I believe that is due to a lack of correct infrastructure in relation to the airport.
Whenever I have put questions to the Minister—I am always talking about connectivity with Belfast City airport or Belfast International airport—he has responded positively about the need for connectivity, but I want to emphasise this again. If we were to invest in the strengthening of routes directly from airports, that would allow businessmen to reach cheaper rental accommodation in Newtownards and other towns, and the local economy would benefit.
Another issue in my constituency is the coastal erosion programme. There are many roads around the Ards peninsula where I live, and in the centre of the constituency, where high tides and the weather conditions cause a lot of erosion, yet the methodology for responding seems to be reactive rather than proactive. I do not fault the Department, but I ask that we look for future aspirational projects that could address the issues. Northern Ireland is at the bottom of the table in relation to spend per head throughout the United Kingdom. There is an historic lack of infrastructure. I do not want to insult anyone’s intelligence in this place, but of course the fact is that over 30-odd years there was a campaign in which the IRA destroyed everything it could, including as many places as it could.
We have moved on, thank the Lord, but when I look at my local towns’ potential and the state-of-the-art office space, UK-wide connectivity and low business rates, it is clear that while short-term issues must be addressed so must the long-term goal of showing the world that Northern Ireland is the place to invest in business. It is the place to produce television shows and locate a high-class graduate labour force, as well as an abundance of admin staff. It is the cyber-security region for the whole United Kingdom, and we have more people employed in that work. That is an example of what we are doing right.
One of the keys to unlock global attraction is the ability to connect easily, both globally and UK-wide, and we simply have not yet come close to unlocking that potential. I would like an extension of the city deals, which the Minister will be aware of, although he is not directly responsible for them. Last night, the stronger towns plan was put forward, and those projects will link towns and cities to the markets that are available. This place is where action must be spearheaded, and I look to the Minister to understand how and when that can be done.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I shall be brief. The good news for the Minister is that, on the basis of what I am about to say, he can remind me that all I have said is the responsibility of the Scottish Government. However, I think I am duty-bound to raise the issues, partly on behalf of my constituents, but, secondarily and in a wider context, as a cautionary tale.
Some weeks ago, my wife and I had occasion to catch the ScotRail service from Inverness to Edinburgh. ScotRail has become something of a national sad and bad joke in Scotland. I think I speak for all Scottish Members when I say we are deeply critical of the appalling standard of service—to call it the standard of service that we enjoy would be to use the wrong verb. On that particular train, I happened to notice as we took our seats—by the way, seat reservation does not work on ScotRail for some reason—I noticed that the toilet was marked as out of order. I thought quickly, and I shall explain why in a moment, and went down the train to see whether the other one was working. I discovered that it was also out of order. There were only two toilets on the train, although it was embarking on a long journey.
I kind of threw my weight about, for which I apologise to hon. Members: I got hold of the guard and said, “Really, you cannot leave and go all the way from Inverness to Edinburgh with no toilets working.” The staff were helpful and it is not them I blame, not one little bit. They got the toilet working. We hear about trolleys being cancelled, toilets not working and trains being cancelled. It is a shambles, and that is the cautionary tale for the UK Government. I hope to goodness that our letters to Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Matheson will have some effect. The best thing would be for the contract to be changed—got rid of.
My second point is about the Stagecoach X99 bus service and a letter that appeared in last week’s John O’Groat Journal:
“I am temporarily disabled following a fall. Last week I took the…bus from Edinburgh with comfortable seats, hot drinks and snacks. There was a ‘new bus’
from Inverness to Wick. It is the worst-designed vehicle ever. The entrance step did not lower. There were no grab-bars at the door to pull myself up, then a steep and narrow stair, impossible for me. Access to the driver was impeded and awkward. Other folk told me the upstairs seats are most uncomfortable.
For disabled people there were three cramped, narrow seats behind the driver. Access to the toilet was up the impossible stairs, then down again to the loo—and back again. It was too much for the third disabled passenger who soaked the velvet seat.
Stagecoach has a full fleet of these for the X99 service. All of our representatives…
I dare you to take a trip on one. Then have them taken off the road.
Nancy Nicolson, Loch Street, Wick”.
There is a letter in this week’s issue, which I shall not read out in full, but it begins:
“I am in total agreement with Nancy Nicolson who wrote…that these so-called double-decker coaches are not designed for use on public service”.
For Stagecoach, a company owned by Sir Brian Souter, to get a fundamental design so badly wrong, particularly for disabled people, appals me. I mentioned the train because my wife is disabled, and when I am not with her in the north of Scotland she has to take the bus, unless she can get a friend to drive her, to go to hospital appointments in Inverness, for example. When I think of her having to scale the stairs to get to the toilet—it is all very well, travelling on a long-distance coach in Europe, but in the highlands, when the bus goes around the twists and bends and up and down hills, it is not funny trying to negotiate that. I thank you for being patient with me, Ms Ryan, but I speak with some passion on the matter.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis on securing the debate.
Given that the debate is about investment in regional transport infrastructure, I note that large aspects of transport policy are now within the remit of the Scottish Government. However, the funding issues that are causing serious under-investment in transport infrastructure in other areas of the UK are just as present in Scotland. The Treasury’s country and regional analysis document highlights the fact that London had the largest amount of capital expenditure spent on transport in the UK— £6.5 billion in 2017-18. In contrast, Scotland spent £2 billion in 2017-18, placing it behind London, the north-west and the south-east. It is worth reflecting on the fact that the difference in spending between Scotland and London was a staggering £4.5 billion.
I accept that Scotland is not alone in lagging behind in investment in transport infrastructure, which is a problem that other regions and nations of the UK face. Just look at the level of integration and improvement in London’s transport system compared with the often disjointed and under-invested transport systems in other areas of the country. That is what a lack of investment means in reality: transport systems in some parts of the country that cannot modernise their infrastructure, integrate their services or meet the needs of communities.
I look at the state of infrastructure in my constituency. We have ongoing problems with the Shawhead flyover, and a lack of proper road markings and filter lights is causing real safety concerns. There is a continued lack of reliable services for passengers on the Stepps to Gartcosh railway line. Other areas in my constituency, such as Chryston and Moodiesburn, are suffering from a reduction in bus services as a result of under-investment, and some areas such as Cardowan have virtually no bus services at all.
In Thorniewood, the ward where I am a councillor, the local bus service linking Viewpark, Tannochside and Birkenshaw with Uddingston town had been running since the days of tram cars, but now it has no service. That has cut off many schools, local factories such as Tunnock’s and the local doctors, leaving many people having to walk miles or take taxis, which are unaffordable. I am holding a public meeting on this issue. It does not just affect Scotland; it is present across the country, and we need further investment.
I will be brief, Ms Ryan. For transport, we in the far south-west need four things, plus one wraparound thing, which is to find our voice. I am disappointed that more of the south-west blue team are not here to add their voices to my four asks, because these are cross-party issues and I implore the Minister to take them seriously.
The first ask is to ensure that our railway is fast and resilient. The £80 million for Dawlish is a good start, but it requires £300 million and we need the remaining money. Secondly, we must ensure that we capitalise on growth in cruise travel by having a new cruise terminal at Mill Bay that will bring tourists into Plymouth and create more jobs and investment, especially in the lead-up to Mayflower 2020 and the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth.
The third point is the extension of the M5 from Exeter to Plymouth, which will provide a safer road with more capacity. The final point is the reopening of Plymouth airport. It closed in 2010, and we are one of a few cities in the country where aviation capacity has been lost. Huge potential can be realised by reopening Plymouth airport, and I hope that after the planning inspectors have made their decision, the Minister will meet me and representatives from Plymouth City Council to see what we can do together, collectively and on a cross-party basis to restore aviation links to Plymouth, so that we get our airport back and address the structural underfunding that we in the far south-west have had for far too long.
The west of England is an area of huge success, with more than 1 million people, 42,000 businesses and a £31 billion economy. We are building 100,000 new homes and expecting 80,000 new jobs, along with new retail and an arena in my constituency. That will involve increased travel demand—we are expecting a 25% increase by 2036, yet two in three journeys are still made by car. We have air quality issues, with 300 premature deaths a year, and congestion costs our economy £300 million a year, yet we have a £6 billion shortfall in investment, as estimated by the west of England joint transport study.
Given the short time that we have to speak today, I invite the Minister to meet me to listen to output from my constituents regarding our north Bristol transport plan, and to deal with the intracity and intercity travel that we are expecting. The success of Bristol means that we are becoming more like London, and we therefore need investment to ensure that our city is not gridlocked. We must target deaths from air pollution, and ensure that people are happy and able to get around and enjoy the city that they love and in which they live.
Thank you, Ms Ryan. To compress the municipal transport system of the entire city of Glasgow into that time will be quite a challenge.
As a cautionary tale for some of those embarking on new devolution projects and city region planning, let me say that it is important to get the balance right because it involves devolving not just financial decision making, but the proper integrated planning of transport policy. Consider the history of municipal transport development in Glasgow. We started 40 years ago with the best urban integrated transport system in the UK, but we now have one of the worst and most fragmented. Why did that happen? Municipal transport structures and planning in Glasgow have been fragmented, partly because of privatisation—including of the municipal bus system and the railways—but also because strategic and regional planning powers were inadvertently taken away by devolution, and such issues became merged with the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government. Indicative regional planning of the transport system has failed miserably over the past 30 years or so, and we need a much more robust and integrated way of doing things.
When considering how to create a devolved regional structure, we need the opportunity to rebalance productivity and investment in our city regions. Those are the things that will change our economic promise across the country, driven by our major city regions. Those are the issues we must address, and perhaps Glasgow can stand as an example. We must redouble our efforts to improve the city’s regional planning and transport infrastructure. There has been no major railway expansion in the urban metro railway system over the past 20 years, and there are still no efforts to address that major issue. Bus regulation has not been achieved, and there is a major issue of car dependency, particularly in some of the poorest communities in the UK and Glasgow, where people do not have the average access to car ownership. That is creating a severe problem of social dislocation.
If we invest properly in our city regions, with the proper integrated planning powers associated with that, we will be in a much better position than we are currently. We must reverse the clock and relearn some of the old lessons.
It is an immense pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan, and I warmly congratulate Dan Jarvis on securing the debate. As we can tell by the time limit on speeches, there is clearly an appetite for further debate on this issue, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman and other Members will pursue it via the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee. We have heard a number of excellent speeches, but because of the time, and since I have already relinquished some of my speech, I will not sum them up.
Given that at least three Scottish Members have contributed today, it would be remiss of me not to refer to the investment that the Scottish Government have been making, as they have steadfastly invested in transport infrastructure in Scotland. Indeed, as Hugh Gaffney will know, since 2007 the SNP has invested £20 billion in transport infrastructure and services, including the largest road investment programme Scotland has ever seen. I am more than happy to have a conversation about where that additional money for transport will come from, and it is regrettable that the Scottish Labour party did not engage in the budget process that we in Scotland have just been through. Perhaps it will next year.
Let me focus on some of the projects that we have invested in. There is the Queensferry crossing over the Forth estuary and the dualling of the A9 all the way from Perth to Inverness—I am sorry that Jamie Stone is not in his place to hear that. We are about to dual the A96 from Inverness to Aberdeen, completing the Aberdeen western peripheral route. There is the Borders Railway—Scottish Conservative Members are normally desperate to talk about the SNP Government, but I note that John Lamont is not here to talk about that wonderful investment by the SNP Government. There is the electrification of the rail link along the central belt, and an extension to the national concessionary travel scheme. I was speaking to my hon. Friend Tommy Sheppard. He turns 60 tomorrow and is very excited to receive his new bus pass, which he will be using. We wish him well with that.
I wish also to reflect on investment in my constituency over the years. The M74 motorway extension was spoken about for many years in Scotland, and it was delivered eight months ahead of schedule and millions of pounds under budget. The extension of the Airdrie to Bathgate railway will benefit my constituents who use Carntyne, Shettleston, Garrowhill or Easterhouse stations, because they can now go directly to Edinburgh, which is great news. There was the upgrading of the A8 to a motorway. For those of us who travel to Airdrie—great Airdrie fans that we are—our journey time to go and see the Diamonds is even faster.
In Glasgow, I would like the east end regeneration route to be completed, including from Parkhead Forge to the M8 motorway. I am disappointed that the previous council took that off the city deal plans, but perhaps it will return. On the subject of stalled spaces, alongside my colleague, John Mason, I would like a train station in Parkhead. It has a vibrant retail environment, whether that is the Forge shopping centre, the Forge retail park, the Forge market, or Scotland’s largest football stadium, Celtic Park, with its capacity of 64,000 people. Parkhead needs a train station, and my message to Network Rail is that it should consider the successes of Bridgeton and Dalmarnock. My hon. Friend Alison Thewliss has arrived, and she will have seen the benefits of the high footfall there.
The investment in Dalmarnock railway station has been marked. It went from being the lowest used station on the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport network, to a brand new, state-of-the-art station built for the Commonwealth games. Does my hon. Friend agree that there are still challenges for stations such as Bridgeton, which need lift access so that people can get in and out more easily?
Thank you, Ms Ryan. It is always a pleasure to have an intervention from my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss, who is an assiduous campaigner for her constituents. She is absolutely right to place on the record the need to ensure that our train stations are accessible for those constituents who have a disability. I hope that the funding that has been made available from the UK Government can be extended. There are far too many train stations, not only in Glasgow but across the country, where it is frankly abysmal for people.
On the issue of passenger figures, I am grateful to Clyde Gateway for furnishing me with information. Because of investment in Dalmarnock and Bridgeton in my hon. Friend’s constituency, passenger numbers have risen 157%, which is obviously a good thing for the local economy. We have seen a lot of investment in the Clyde Gateway area, which I want to see continue, but I would also like to see a bit of investment around the Parkhead area, which would bring huge benefits to my constituents. I unashamedly make that case to Network Rail.
It is a pleasure to serve under you in the Chair, Ms Ryan.
We have had fantastic contributions from the north, south, east and west of the country, with hon. Members making representations and airing grievances. I am sure that the Minister will respond to all of those. I want to start by thanking my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis, who has brought forward a really exciting, multi-modal approach to transport in south Yorkshire. He proposes a transport system connecting people and places, taking the Sheffield city region through to 2040 with his ambition for transport there, and ensuring that transport is the servant and not the master of the local economy.
We know that we need to develop housing and industry around our transport system, so that transport can be sown into a modern, sustainable and accessible process, in order to move people around. This is about productivity and social inclusion. We have heard what a stimulus that can be for our modern economy.
We have seen the power of devolution in places such as Manchester and London. We want to see that across the whole of Yorkshire. However, devolution has to mean a real emphasis on moving resources, power and decision making, and not just lip service, so that regions can determine their own destiny.
The transport brief is about clear, strategic objectives. However, there are some really important things missing and areas where greater focus is needed from the Government. I want to highlight the decarbonisation of our transport system. We have a carbon crisis at the moment. Transport comprises between 29% and 32% of all carbon emissions in the UK, and we have to reduce our carbon emissions by 15% year on year.
The catastrophic road building project and the cancellation of rail electrification show that the Government are moving in the wrong direction. They are adding to the carbon footprint, rather than reducing it. In my city, 50,000 people each year lose their lives due to poor air quality. That is a national crisis and it must be addressed as such.
I am sorry, I do not have time.
I want to see a focus on decarbonisation and decongestion as a priority for my city of York. Over the next 12 months, Labour’s cities and transport commission will achieve that.
We have heard about inequality of spending across the country. The north-east has the worst levels of investment. That must change. It was also interesting to hear about the need for greater investment on the Isle of Wight, which shows that our infrastructure needs to be brought up to the modern era.
When we are making these investments, we have to plan for our railway system over a 30 to 40 year period—the length of time our infrastructure is sustained. Therefore, we need to ensure not only that the infrastructure is right, but that we have the skills to serve the infrastructure. While the Government have issued great plans around energy, construction and the transport system for future engineering projects, I say to the Minister—I am sure he has had similar conversations himself—that we are facing a skills cliff edge at the moment, given our ageing demographic and Brexit. The industry is doubtful that the infrastructure projects mentioned will be delivered. At the same time, there is a draw-down into the south-east, which means that we may not see the development across the country that we want.
We are seriously concerned about the emphasis on road building as opposed to moving forward into modern transport systems, bringing about modal shift, and ensuring that people are moving from their cars to public transport and to active travel for local journeys, which constitute 80% of journeys. We need to focus on a modern system, such as exists in Strasbourg, Copenhagen and much of the Netherlands. That is the kind of ambition that Labour has, and why we believe that we will deliver strongly in the transport brief.
We also recognise that there have been some good initiatives. The tram-train project in Sheffield has taken forward a mechanism of good, clean energy for the future. Importantly, it serves not only the city, but the more rural areas. As has been mentioned, this is about drawing in people from the towns and wider conurbations, so that people can get to work and travel for leisure. That is so important.
Opposition Members spoke about bus services. The Government’s profit-driven bus plan—I use the word “plan” lightly—does not deliver for the public. We believe that buses should be brought under public control. When we look at places such as Reading, where we see an increase in patronage and a service that meets the needs of residents, day and night, we can see what is possible when bus services are integrated into economic development. There are powerful testimonies to that from elsewhere. Coaches never get a mention, but I want to mention them, because they can also form part of a modal shift and bring rapid change. I believe that we must explore all options.
The trans-Pennine route was mentioned yet again. I say to the Minister that it is really important at this stage to scope out the work for the full electrification project, and to ensure that the scope includes opportunity for future freight. Labour will electrify that line and ensure that freight is deliverable on it. Speaking of freight—which, again, has not been mentioned yet—it is important that we build a freight system for the future, putting as much freight as we can on to rail and ensuring that all long-distance journeys are accessible, reliable and timely for freight. Therefore, we need to see a real move in that direction, as well as investment in urban consolidation centres, which will enable us to stop heavy goods vehicles travelling into town centres.
Finally, I want to touch on inter-modal connectivity. Joining everything up is really important. We have been quite startled by the fact that HS2 is being placed at Curzon Street, as opposed to New Street, meaning that people will have to trundle through the middle of Birmingham. I am sure that might be an advantage to Birmingham, but it does not really address the connectivity that is needed. We need to ensure that there is good connectivity across all transport modes. We expect the Government to look again at the way that they have put transport into siloes. Labour believes that inter-modal connectivity and moving people more on to public transport is the way forward, and that is what we will deliver in government.
It is an absolute pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Ryan. I am not a huge reader of Tom Clancy, but I think that Jack Ryan could take your correspondence course when it comes to bravery in public office, so thank you very much indeed. I congratulate my friend Dan Jarvis on securing the debate, and all hon. Members who participated in the wide-ranging conversation.
I know that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central, with his mayoral hat on, will hope, as do the Department and I, that he will be able to complete the devolution deal that he has in mind for the Sheffield city region, releasing powers and funding. Although I know that is not always the position held on the Government Benches, we have been working closely with him on that. As he said, transport is essential for prosperity, growth and wellbeing across the whole country. We recognise that good transport infrastructure is absolutely essential to productivity. That point was well made by my hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake, who highlighted the productivity gap in this country. That means delivering new infrastructure, from strategic and regional priorities all the way down to the local level. I will touch on all of those levels, while addressing as many of the points that have been raised by hon. Members as I can.
As hon. Members will know, in 2017 the Government published a very ambitious transport investment strategy, setting out our ambition to build a stronger and more balanced economy within the industrial strategy more widely, and responding to local growth priorities. That has conditioned the investments we have made ever since.
On the road side—hon. Members know that I am the roads Minister—we have invested heavily in existing transport infrastructure and new schemes, with some £15 billion being spent through road investment strategy 1 between 2015 and 2020. In the 2018 Budget the Government published objectives for road investment strategy 2, which will run from 2020 to 2025 and include £25.3 billion to be made available to further develop and improve the strategic road network. We are developing an affordable and deliverable investment plan for RIS2, which will be published later this year.
I could not help noticing that Rachael Maskell was extremely rude about road building and called it catastrophic. Does that constitute a change of policy on the part of the whole Labour party? I encourage her not to think of it in that way, because road investment strategy 2 not only includes hundreds of millions of pounds for cycling and walking schemes and an enormous investment in skills, which she cares very much about, but paves the ways for autonomous and electric vehicles, which will be the vehicle—if I may use the pun—for the decarbonisation and greening of our economy in the longer term.
I do not have time; I apologise.
In the 2018 Budget we also provided a top-up of £420 million for local roads, particularly to repair potholes. A share of £3.5 billion of the national roads fund over five years from 2020-21 will fund improvements in the middle tier of the country’s busiest and most economically important local authority A roads, such as the A66, which connects Cumbria to the north-east. I have made no secret of the fact that, in the spending review, I am pressing for a local roads settlement that follows a similar five-year pattern so that local authorities have more visibility and more capacity to make strategic decisions at a level that is, hopefully, at least as good as the present one.
Of course, we are not just investing in the strategic road network; we are continually investing in upgrades and improvements to rail, including £1 billion that has been invested so far in the great north rail project and £3 billion that will be spent over the next few years to improve rail journeys between Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds and York. Every train on the Northern and TransPennine networks will be new or modernised by 2020.
On Northern Powerhouse Rail, the strategic outline business case has been received and is under review. We expect to develop a response to it in close co-operation with partners across the north. It has been suggested that scrapping HS2 is the best way to secure Northern Powerhouse Rail, but that is naive, if I may say so. The Government’s commitment remains unchanged. HS2 is one of the keys to developing Northern Powerhouse Rail, not least because Northern Powerhouse Rail trains will use HS2 infrastructure, including on the approach to Manchester and between Sheffield and Leeds. That may mean that HS2 infrastructure will have to be built first, as a priority, before NPR can be implemented on those stretches.
Rightly, active travel has been mentioned and has been a focus of the debate. The hon. Member for York Central spoke about mode shift, and I could not agree more—I spoke at the Modeshift awards earlier today. It involves investment in air quality, cycling and walking schemes, our new road to zero strategy and the future of mobility. We are heavily involved in all those things.
We have published a cycling and walking investment strategy, which sets out ambitions for 2040. So far we have made £1 billion available to local bodies over the next five years to invest in local cycling and walking schemes. We have supported 46 local authorities on specific schemes that they have in mind. I share the view of the hon. Member for Barnsley Central and am delighted that he is appointing an active travel commissioner. I take my hat off to Chris Boardman and to the other highly engaged local teams at mayoral authorities that are making transformative differences.
There is a question about the city versus town balance. Recent Government initiatives, such as the future high streets fund and the stronger towns fund, which was just announced, have tried to recognise that. That city focus has been well picked up by mayoral authorities, however, and in Manchester we have invested £250 million through the transforming cities fund, of which £160 million is going on cycling and walking schemes through the transformative Beelines project.
Hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber have expressed concerns about regional investment. There cannot be much doubt that successive Governments have under-invested in the north, which we recognise. However, we are investing in the north not just because of that, but because it is the right thing to do and it is essential to our future productivity as a nation.
Grahame Morris rightly mentioned perceptions of unfairness. He is probably more sophisticated than I am in looking at the specific regional differences, but he ought to know that new figures from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority show that central Government’s planned transport capital investment spend will be higher in the north-west, north-east, and Yorkshire and Humber than for London, the south-east and the south-west as a whole. That conceals regional variations, as he will be aware, but it is a highly encouraging sign overall.
I will crack on in the few minutes I have left, because I want to leave some time for the hon. Member for Barnsley Central to reply. At a regional level, we have supported sub-national transport bodies, which are important from our point of view, particularly in the production of a regional evidence base for our major road network. Hon. Members will know about the transformative move that took place on
The hon. Member for Barnsley Central rightly said that there has been a lot of focus on cities. I have mentioned three obvious ways in which we have tried to address that head-on: first, through devolution deals and wider city regions; secondly, through the £2.5 billion transforming cities fund; and thirdly, through the new stronger towns fund and the future high streets fund, which comprise nearly £1.3 billion.
The future of mobility is of great importance. We are thinking hard about how to improve mobility, which does not just mean the autonomous and electric vehicles that will require higher quality road surfaces and that underpin the need for continued road investment. It also involves the £150 million that we have invested in Transport for the North for smart and integrated ticketing and the investment we have made in future mobility zones across the west midlands.
In the minute remaining, I will quickly pick up on some of the points raised by hon. Members. Mr Dhesi, who is no longer here, which is a pity, asked whether we were dragging our feet on western rail links to Heathrow. The answer is absolutely not. The consultation concluded in June 2018 and Network Rail intends to submit proposals for planning powers later this year.
My hon. Friend Mr Seely asked a whole host of questions—I wish I could respond to all of them. I have looked closely at the Green Book and think there is still work to be done on it. Frankly, in many ways the Treasury takes a Department for Transport lead on it, precisely to get away from an overly financialised or economic view. We have a five-case model, which includes environmental impacts and others. If hon. Members would like to come and discuss with officials how that works in specific cases, I would be happy to curate a roundtable or something of that kind.
A question was asked about the fragmentation of transport, which is always a concern and something that the Williams reviews is looking at. Jim Shannon, who is no longer here, made a point about connectivity. I could not agree with him more. Emma Hardy expressed her gratitude. I remind her of the definition of gratitude in “Yes Minister”, which is, “a lively expectation of favours to come”.
It has been a wide-ranging debate and I am grateful to all hon. Members who have contributed. There has been general agreement on the importance of active travel. Perhaps the Minister might consider appointing a country-wide active travel commissioner.
I am delighted to hear that, because it will provide an important opportunity to join up the good work that is taking place across the country.
The point about the Green Book criteria might sound niche, but it is vital. I am pleased that the Minister has made a commitment to meet hon. Members to discuss the detail of those criteria. I look forward to that opportunity.
The point I want to end on is that the architecture and governance around the decisions that underpin transport infrastructure is a crowded field; lots of different organisations and stakeholders are involved, from national Government and the Department to Network Rail, combined mayoral authorities and local authorities. In the north, however, the landscape has changed recently with Transport for the North, which is doing an important job well and is well led. It has successfully established a consensus among leaders. Northern Powerhouse Rail’s strategic outline business case and the strategic transport plan show us that we can do it. We just need the Government to allocate the resources to underpin the plans that have been agreed in the north.
Motion lapsed (