To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps his Department is taking to improve rail connections in (a) Stoke-on-Trent and (b) Staffordshire.
The Department is working to improve rail connections across the network including at Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire through both the HS2 and Midlands Connect schemes. Plans are being developed for the Midlands Engine between the Department for Transport and Midlands Connect, which include proposals to increase the frequency of trains between Stoke-on-Trent and Crewe.
West Midlands Trains also run an hourly service between Birmingham New Street and Crewe, calling at Stafford, Stone and Stoke – on – Trent. From December 2020 the timetable will be uplifted so this service includes calls at Penkridge, meaning an extra hourly service at this station in addition to the calls made by the existing Birmingham New Street – Liverpool Lime Street service.
HS2 services are expected to serve Stoke-on-Trent once the railway is operational. No final decisions have been made on the exact HS2 train service, however, and the Department has appointed West Coast Partnership Development to analyse passenger demand on the route and present options for train service patterns that best allow this demand to be met with the available infrastructure. The Secretary of State will decide on the preferred option, once it has been subject to wider consultation, nearer to the time that HS2 opens.
In January 2020 the Secretary of State announced the £500 million Restoring Your Railway fund to deliver our manifesto commitment and start reopening lines and stations, reconnecting smaller communities. Meir station was successful in the first round of the Ideas Fund and is currently on track to progress to the next stage of the Restoring Your Railway process.