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10 Jul 2001 : Column 204WH

Transport (East Midlands)

11 am

Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire): I rise from this phalanx of east midlands Members of Parliament to raise a subject that I believe will engender a lively debate. I shall start by setting out the principles on which any modern transport strategy should rest. First, every citizen should be able to fulfil most of his or her daily needs by travelling on foot or by bicycle, which requires, as I shall explain, a change in the way in which we plan our built environment. Secondly, every citizen should have access to quality public transport—by "quality" I mean sufficient to enable people to get to work or to fulfil normal shopping needs. By that criteria the twice-weekly bus service common in some of my villages is inadequate. Thirdly, people need comfortable, affordable access to other parts of the United Kingdom. Delightful though South Derbyshire is, its inhabitants sometimes want to travel to other parts of the country reasonably cheaply and comfortably, without difficulty in accessing the mode of transport that they use from where they live.

Fourthly, companies in our region should have speedy access to their markets and to other parts of their supply chain so that they can build more successful enterprises and reach new markets and new customers. Fifthly, our modes of transport should be integrated. It is not enough to have a bus service if it does not link to the rail network or to the local airport. Such links are sadly too often missing, both in the east midlands and in other parts of the country. Sixthly, information should be made available to people to enable them to make informed transport choices. It should not be difficult to find out where one can catch a bus or a train, or what air services are available in an area. Again, there is a need for improved information and communications technology, in the interests not merely of creating better informed citizens but of creating alternatives to transport.

Seventhly, we need to ensure that alternative transport choices and fiscal measures discourage the most polluting car uses. I represent a rural constituency and recognise that possession of a car—I have one—is virtually essential to carry on any sort of normal life in my area and, although we cannot see too far into the future, probably always will be. However, we want to ensure that we take measures that encourage the most efficient use of a car and not the gas-guzzlers that are still on our roads. Eighthly, we should try to ensure that information and communications technology is fostered in a way that allows people to choose not to travel at all, so that people could, for example, work from home for a substantial part of their working life, thereby minimising transport use.

How can we apply those principles in the east midlands? Our demanding economic goal to turn the east midlands into a top 20 region within Europe by 2010 is made more complex by the fact that the region is substantially rural. People choose to live there because of the smallness of many of the communities, the delightful countryside around them and the quality of the environment that people can enjoy. The last thing that we want is to develop a successful region by polluting its attractiveness and destroying the reasons why many people choose to live and work there.

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Therefore, transport strategy and the choices that we make are crucial parts of building that successful economy and protecting the things that most of us regard as essential if the east midlands is to continue to be an attractive place to live and work.

Specific measures that must be taken include improving the quality of the rail services in the region. It is crucial that we upgrade the Midland Mainline service between the Derby area, which is the part of the region that I represent, and London. That means increasing the speed and frequency of the service that is available.

Paddy Tipping (Sherwood): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that, in the 10-year transport plan, the west coast main line and the east coast main line are both listed for major investment, but there is no mention whatever of the need to invest in the midland main line? That will have terrible consequences on urban conurbations such as Nottingham, Derby and Leicester.

Mr. Todd : I entirely share that view. However, a seed of hope—perhaps the Minister will reassure us—in the M1 multimodal study, which I will touch on shortly, is the emphasis on and thorough exploration of upgrading the midland main line as an alternative to some of the more frightening prospects of widening the M1.

Phil Hope (Corby): Corby is the largest town in Europe without a passenger railway station. Midland Mainline has been involved in a feasibility study with a view to reopening the railway station in Corby to make a direct route between London, Corby, Nottingham and the north. A passenger railway service is vital to Corby's regeneration and to attracting new retailers and new building to the shopping centre.

Mr. Todd : Although I am not nearly as familiar with the needs of Corby as my hon. Friend is, I share his view. A community the size of Corby should have a proper rail service, and the lack of it certainly makes it more difficult to attract inward investment and to regenerate the town further—I recognise that there has already been a great deal of success. The position in my constituency is substantially worse than in many others, as there are no rail services in any part of South Derbyshire, except for the two little villages of Willington and Hatton. Swadlincote, the only town in my constituency, lost its railway service in the Beeching cuts. I shall return to that subject shortly.

In developing a strategy for the east midlands as a whole, we should also explore the need for dedicated rail freight services. That might require support for Central rail. I have an open mind about that: there are some advantages to the Central rail project, but it needs further study. It would be a brave private sector initiative to provide a link from the north-west to London and then into Europe. It would run through our region and provide significant advantages to the areas that it touched. Regardless of that proposal, it would be desirable to increase substantially the freight carried by rail, perhaps moving towards the goal of 10 per cent. of total freight volume by 2010.

We must invest in new local rail services to link the major routes—in this case, the midland main line—to centres of population. That would reduce road use, and

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I can use myself as an example. When I work at the southern end of my constituency in Swadlincote, I have to use a car, either to reach the rail network or to drive down to London to get to Parliament. The links to the rail network are inadequate, and it takes about half an hour to reach any rail station from Swadlincote.

There is the opportunity to open the existing rail freight line that runs through part of my constituency. It has been called the Ivanhoe line or, increasingly, the National forest line because of its route through the National forest, which is developing successfully throughout that part of our region. The line would provide passenger stations in my constituency on the edge of Swadlincote, as well as linking into Burton and areas of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor). I was pleased to see that that option was recognised by the M1 multimodal study as a possible way of dispersing traffic from the M1. I attended the meeting at which that was discussed, and commend the imagination shown. I recommend that approach to the Minister as another reason for supporting the National forest line, together with the opportunities for regeneration and improvement of the environment in South Derbyshire and North-West Leicestershire.

We must invest in railway station improvements, because some stations are unattractive. There has been a welcome programme of improvements in Derby, but other stations in the region do not encourage people to use them. The investment in the new parkway station south of Derby would substantially increase the attractiveness of the Midland Mainline to many people. It would make it easier for people to reach a railway station to join a mainline service, rather than having to choose the unappealing option of heading into a major city.

On the road network, I have already mentioned the M1 multimodal study and I commend its imaginative approach and breadth of vision. I was impressed by the initial consultation document, which set out many alternative strategies to the obvious option of providing more lanes and changing the interchanges for the M1. That should be the least favoured option, and we should ensure that the study produces action on a range of alternative measures that reduces traffic on the M1 and prevents the need for substantial road widening. I have touched on some initiatives—improving the midland main line is certainly one, as was recognised in the strategy, and the Ivanhoe line is another—and many others are available. I understand that the multimodal study will be published later this year, and many people are looking forward to its contents. I am looking forward optimistically and hope that it will dispense with the arguments for massive road widening along much of the route.

Another multimodal study affects one crucial issue in regional planning, which is linkage between regions. We all represent east midlands constituencies, but we must remember that the region links into other parts of the country as well. The multimodal study on the A38, which touches one side of my constituency, is also crucial, but now I must be rather less positive. The initial information that I received showed that people were starting strongly to favour major widening schemes along the A38. I am not saying that none of that is necessary. The road is heavily used and links Derby,

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Burton and Birmingham, but I was disappointed at the lack of consideration for other modes of transport, and particularly other interchanges with other modes of transport, that might be fostered.

I shall now deal with air transport. East Midlands airport is a major economic growth point in the region, as everyone examining economic strategy for our region has recognised. We all welcome that. In particular, its success in freight shows the need for a more holistic consideration of strategy. Surely it is crazy for a major freight airport to have no rail link. It is clearly inappropriate that any freight arriving at East Midlands airport has to move to a road-based mode of transport.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): I endorse what my hon. Friend said about East Midlands airport being a major engine for economic growth, but will he comment on two related concerns? First, the lack of environmental controls produces extensive night noise. Secondly, the airport is a catalyst for large-scale urban sprawl, particularly around junction 24.

Mr. Todd : My hon. Friend has snatched the words out of my mouth. Our constituents regularly draw attention to the difficulties of night noise and general noise from the airport. In addition, more than 80 per cent. of the airport's employees travel to it by car, which is not satisfactory. We need better public transport links to the airport to reduce that proportion substantially. The parkway station, which is conveniently located relatively close to the airport, may help to reduce the burden, but more work is required.

Rigorous controls on night flying and noise generation by the airport are needed as the price of its future development and growth. Last year, the Government consulted on noise controls at the airports that are not subject to national noise controls; the east midlands region awaits the outcome. Many people from my area contributed to the consultation, which has taken a year so far. In a recent parliamentary answer, I was told that we could expect a response later in the year. The sooner it arrives, the better.

North West Leicestershire district council has proposed the alternative approach of adding East Midlands airport to the three London airports, obliging it to be subject to national controls. One suspects that the Government may not favour that option, because they consulted on a locally based framework for noise controls, but an early response to the consultations would certainly put many people's minds at rest, assuming that the Government moved in favour of locally set controls.

Lastly, I shall deal with the bus network. All of us who represent more rural parts of the region welcome the substantial additional investment in local transport through bus grants available from county councils, supported by the Government. In my area, there has been an increase of about 50 per cent. in real terms in the amount of money available for that purpose from 1997. That has been well spent on extending evening and weekend services, at least in my constituency. That improves the accessibility of public transport, and people now recognise that it is available all the time,

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most notably in the community transport system. South Derbyshire community transport in Swadlincote has received a substantial additional amount of money and is now a major bus operator in the area.

I have two criticisms. First, insufficient money is available to introduce substantial numbers of new routes. As I said, many villages in my constituency have minimal or non-existent bus services. Secondly, we have not yet worked out how to integrate community transport and scheduled bus services; people still see them as "either/or" rather than a seamless service in which one could catch a bus from Church Broughton, for example, in the northern part of my constituency, and join a scheduled service in Hilton, which still has a rudimentary bus service. Integration of those services should be more actively explored. It can be done at a local level, but the Government could prompt such initiatives, as a large effort has been put into community transport.

We must have a planning system that supports communities. In my constituency, 200 houses have been built on an old hospital site and 200 more are planned. The estate has no bus service, so possession of a car is essential. Such developments are inappropriate; a planner to whom I spoke about the matter said, "I don't think we'd do that nowadays." We must build into the planning system an obligation to provide public transport, and ensure that there is access to it. Section 102 agreements should be used to fund public transport systems, which are essential in such areas.

Local authorities must more actively engage in the use of information and communications technology in public transport and in providing alternative means of working without needing to use public transport.

People want a growing regional economy without losing the region's beautiful environment and without having to rely on one or two economic sectors which, although they may make organisation of the transport network easier, make our economy more vulnerable. That is why transport diversity and flexibility is crucial. I have emphasised modes of transport and integration between the various parts, and the role of local government in knitting them together. I look forward with keen interest to the Minister's response.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (in the Chair): Order. It appears that as many as eight hon. Members may wish to contribute to the debate, including the Opposition spokesman. There must be adequate time for the Minister to reply, so I ask hon. Members for self-discipline so that everyone who wishes to speak may do so.

11.23 am

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): I congratulate my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour, the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) on securing this important debate. Our east midlands constituencies are the nexus of regional communications, as they contain the East Midlands airport, the M1 motorway, the Midland Mainline railway, the M42-A42 and the Derby southern bypass, and to the south lies the A14-M6 link. Our constituencies are at the heart of the east midlands but, as my hon. Friend said, we need better regional rail services to link with the national network.

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Few people remember the third man on the moon, or will remember the third person to drop out of the Conservative party leadership contest, and few will remember that the third commercial railway line to open in this country was the Swannington to Leicester line, much of which is on the National forest route, which my hon. Friend mentioned. The line was opened in 1832, the year of the great Reform Act, and it substantially reformed the lives of businesses and people in our area. Beeching came along 131 years later and, together with thousands of miles of network in the United Kingdom, the line was axed. Many stations—and access to the mainline network on the then Leicester to Burton line, running through North-West Leicestershire, South Derbyshire and other constituencies—were removed.

In the subsequent 20 years the line was used mainly for freight, linking local pits and other employers to the network, but closure continued. The National forest came into being, with a major impact on the environmental and economic regeneration of our area. It brought with it new industries, including the expansion of leisure and recreation, but the people who want to live and work in our area still lack an adequate rail service. That was recognised early on, and the Ivanhoe line project of the 1990s meant the planned opening of 16 new stations on the route from Loughborough via Leicester and Coalville to Burton and Derby.

Twelve sites were identified and work was done to bring track and signalling up to passenger standards. Passing routes were constructed and four trains were to be purchased to run the service. The relatively easy add-on section between Leicester and Loughborough was designed, built and opened in 1994. Along came another Conservative Government to restructure the rail network under the Railways Act 1993. That brought about two changes that had a serious effect on the second stage of the Ivanhoe project—the part that we now call the National forest line. First, capital investment was to be carried out by Railtrack and recouped through track access charges. Secondly, all trains were to be leased rather than purchased. Those two changes had the effect of transferring costs from the capital account, which previously would have been funded by Government grant and borrowing approvals, to a revenue account funded directly by the county council.

The county council baulked at a bid under the rail passenger partnership fund because the outline capital cost was about £15 million. Each train cost about £600,000 to operate, with a third going in lease charges. The forecast revenues meant that the deficit under the restructured rail network was about £2 million a year—a significant sum. At a meeting last year, the county council cabinet of a Conservative-Liberal administration decided not to make a pre-qualification bid to the rail partnership passenger fund.

Many campaigners were extremely disappointed. The argument that the Ivanhoe line did not represent value for money was narrowly financial, born of the cold hearts of accountants in dim and dusty rooms. I speak as an accountant in attributing those qualities to accountants. What of the wider environmental benefits: the reduction in pollution and congestion in cities and towns surrounding the route, the accident savings—despite Hatfield, it is much safer to travel by rail than by

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car—the regeneration benefits through access to the National forest, and the reduction in social exclusion? My hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire mentioned that earlier: we represent similar areas; people living in the rural areas often have poorer access to services and facilities than those in urban areas do.

The county council went cool on the project, but the North-West Leicestershire district, in conjunction with others such as South Derbyshire, did not let it lie there. The project was reviewed to establish whether there was a way ahead. The partnership was and remains more positive about the potential for this line, but even it agreed with the county council that the RPP fund as presently constituted was inappropriate for the scheme. Either the rules on RPP funding must be revised to permit capital grants or another source of grant aid must be used. The failure to address that problem will frustrate Government policy, as laid down in "Transport 2010" and elsewhere.

Some of the options in "Transport 2010", the 10-year plan, suggest that there are ways forward for the scheme. For example, the rail modernisation fund provides investment

The partnership that is investigating possible ways ahead has concluded that there are three major aspects to a scheme to restore passenger services on this important regional line. The prime objective must be to open the line to passenger traffic; any expansion of freight or transit excursion traffic should be secondary and should not prejudice a regular passenger service. That is the partnership's key conclusion. The Strategic Rail Authority and train operators must, of course, be involved.

Secondly, my hon. Friend referred to developer interest, which offers some sources of funding. However, in most cases, planning gain for the developments that are seen as necessary in the structure plans up to 2011 and beyond has probably already been taken, so I am not sure whether that option gives us much in the short term.

Finally, the partnership has included the line as a proposed coalfield transport regeneration project, which it has submitted to the Coalfield Communities Campaign. That option offers a great deal, and I am optimistic that it will provide further funding of the sort that we saw in earlier years.

I conclude with three quotes from three campaigners, some of whom have been heavily involved in the issue over the years. County councillor Horace Sankey told me that I should

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Mr. Gerald Box, who, together with Keith Payne, has been an active campaigner, said:

Thirdly, to show that it is a cross-age and cross-community issue, I want to quote Matthew Smith, who is 13 and who wrote to me this week. He said:

I look to the Minister to give us that support; it will find an echo in the community and be warmly welcomed by groups and individuals such as those whom I have quoted. I look forward to his comments.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (in the Chair): Before I call the next speaker, I should say that I or whoever succeeds me in the Chair will call for winding-up speeches to begin at 12 o'clock.

11.33 am

Paddy Tipping (Sherwood): This is a welcome and timely debate. The regional transport strategy is part of the draft regional planning guidance, the final part of which will be issued this autumn.

There is a great feeling in the east midlands that we need to be in the premier league of top 20 regions in Europe. To achieve that, we need to build our infrastructure. A major aim must be to increase our skills, training and education to enhance the quality of our work force. A secondary and extremely important aim is to invest in the transport infrastructure. I shall briefly discuss three issues that affect the east midlands.

Three major rail routes run out of London: the west coast main line, the east coast main line and the midland main line. In the 10-year plan, there are major investments for the west coast and east coast main lines. The midland main line has always been perceived as the poor relation. It serves major conurbations such as Leicester, Nottingham and Derby, and we must ensure that investment in it continues. The train operator, Midland Mainline, has done well, with its Turbostar service and the parkway station at junction 24. However, major track improvement is needed over the next 10 years. A spur to that will be the redevelopment of the St. Pancras-King's Cross interchange, which will involve the Eurostar coming in to north London. It would be a travesty if the speed of the service on the midland main line were pedestrian compared with that on the line through Kent and the chunnel to France. We need to work hard on that. We also need to work hard on the east coast main line. My hon. Friends who have

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spoken have mentioned the need for quality services and stations. Further investment is needed in Newark station on the east coast main line.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) spoke about the multimodal study on the M1, which is important and must not be delayed. We must think carefully about its consequences. I say to people in Westminster Hall today and to a wider audience that we must tackle the thorny issue of the A453 from junction 24 on the M1 into Nottingham. There has been procrastination on the subject for many years, and the time has come to grip the nettle. Investment will not come into the Nottingham conurbation until hard decisions are taken about widening the route of the A453. Certain routes proposed by some of my colleagues would be environmental disasters. Hard choices must be made following the study, so I hope that the Minister and his colleagues will not renege on them, but will take them and get on with the job.

I want to talk briefly about the need to regenerate coalfields, which my hon. Friends the Members for South Derbyshire and for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) mentioned. The Robin Hood railway line has been an enormous success in the east midlands, especially in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, whose county councils I commend for pursuing it. We have reopened a derelict line, and the service has been a tremendous success. Unfortunately, its success outreaches the infrastructure available. The trains are crowded, new carriages are needed, and there should be a half-hourly service rather than an hourly one. We must improve quality and reliability. An extension should be made as well, providing a route from Mansfield to Tuxford, taking in Edwinstowe and Ollerton.

We must consider the use of mineral railway lines across the east midlands. The moratorium on their use was recently lifted. If possible, we must reserve the lines for park-and-ride sites, but many of them will not qualify. Many run from urban areas and pit villages into the countryside. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire said, we must encourage people out of urban areas into the countryside on their feet and bikes.

One of the problems with Railtrack, aside from simple inaction or the inability to deliver a quality service, is an inability to take decisions about redundant railway lines. If the Government were to examine closely the issue of mineral railway lines, use them positively where possible and, where not, use them for amenity and recreational purposes, that would be a major feather in their cap.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (in the Chair): I thank the hon. Gentleman for his succinct and brief remarks.

11.40 am

Gillian Merron (Lincoln): I am keen to ensure that Lincolnshire plays its full part in making the east midlands a premier region, an aspiration that I share with my colleagues in the east midlands group of Labour MPs. We have worked together to advance that.

Lincolnshire is the largest county in the east midlands, with the greatest length of roads in the region. However, with a population of around 600,000 it has the second

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lowest population density in the region, and that brings its own challenges. As part of the large network of highways in the county, there are some 2,500 miles of public rights of way, the reopening of which by the county council following the foot and mouth crisis has been desperately slow. Many of my constituents are unhappy about that, as am I, and I urge the county council to get on with the job that they should have got on with already.

Transport is one of the greatest challenges that the present Government have to face. It is one of the greatest messes that we inherited and we face the challenge of putting it right. In my constituency, improved transport links are crucial for attracting, retaining and improving investment and business. They are also essential to enable people to get about safely, conveniently and comfortably, to develop communities and to improve the quality of life.

Lincoln has long suffered from being cut off. The situation will be greatly improved by the dualling of the A46 between Newark and Lincoln, as the Government have now approved the £28 million scheme. However, Lincoln's standing would be greatly improved by better rail services. We have no direct link to London, and the existing routes do not provide the service that many of us would reasonably expect in the 21st century.

As hon. Members will be aware from previous debates and from questions that I have raised in the House, Lincoln also suffers from the unenviable distinction of being the only major city that is cut in two every time a train passes through it. However, we have another challenge before us, as part of the national transport agenda is to remove heavy goods vehicles from the congested road network. The proposal to improve the London to Edinburgh east coast main line includes doubling the present volume of freight over the next 10 years. An integral part of that upgrade would be to divert freight from the east coast main line on to local parallel rail routes. That would mean more freight transport through Lincoln, and would adversely affect the city. As chair of the Lincoln rail working group, I have worked with others to find solutions to the problems that will be created by the new scheme. Although it will bring tremendous benefits to Lincoln and the surrounding area, it must be implemented without detriment to the city.

The Lincoln rail working group is not simply made up of local interested groups and local authorities, but includes representatives of Railtrack, the East Midlands development agency, the Government office for the east midlands and the Strategic Rail Authority. Its composition should give hon. Members an idea of the importance of the issue, in both regional and national terms.

The east coast main line upgrade is a vital scheme that could bring national, regional and local benefits, including the potential for improved rail services, direct services to London and rail freight facilities that would serve local needs. However, it would be completely unacceptable if there were no change in the provision of rail services in Lincoln as that would lead to immense difficulties in the city and the surrounding areas. We are working to address that. Only yesterday, I went on a walkabout in my constituency with members of the Lincoln rail working group and representatives of the Strategic Rail Authority looking at the problems and

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considering how to overcome them. Our proposals in "Vision @ Lincoln", which were presented to the public some months ago, included an underground and a surface option. I shall be meeting my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in a few weeks to discuss it.

My firm belief is that we have a one-off opportunity in Lincoln to cure a long-term ill—one that the city has lived with for 150 years. I also believe that it is very much in line with Government thinking that transport solutions should help create new opportunities for regeneration by bringing investment to local areas as well as providing better passenger services and assisting in the movement of freight.

I have no doubt that, without a major development in Lincoln, an artificial cap will be placed on investment and development in the city; again, that would be unacceptable. I must emphasise that it is not a matter only for Lincoln. It is a matter for the region and beyond, which is why I am pleased to have had the opportunity to raise the matter once again in this Chamber.

Transport links are a key matter for the city and surrounding area. An eastern bypass for Lincoln would clearly ease the increasing traffic pressure on the city centre. I am sorry that Lincolnshire county council did not see fit to acquire the land necessary to enable it to be built.

The operation of bus services presents a considerable challenge for companies such as Roadcar, but Paul Hill and his team have worked hard to service Lincoln and beyond. Lincolnshire has received considerable Government funding for rural bus services, and I saw the outstanding results of that investment on the route between Lincoln and Langworth. Use of the Lincoln to Skegness Inter-Connect bus route has increased by 112 per cent. That is not surprising, because it is supported by the new flexible bus services, CallConnect and CallConnect Plus, which are designed to allow those who live in rural areas to reach the main service routes by making a simple telephone call. That must be the way for the future, and I hope that the Minister will continue to endorse such schemes.

As I represent an urban constituency, I have a question for the Minister. What about support for urban bus services? Although it is right and proper to support rural bus services, many needs remain unresolved and unmet. We need continuing support for urban bus services, so that people wanting to travel to Bracebridge Heath or Birchwood and all points between can be sure of travelling when they want in comfort and safety. Transport is the key to lasting prosperity. I ask the Minister to see it in that light and to act accordingly, so that the east midlands region can take its place in the premier league.

11.48 am

John Mann (Bassetlaw): I shall give a transport perspective from the northern extremity of the east midlands, and I shall start with the railway. The east coast main line bisects my constituency. I hope that a decision on the franchise will be made in the near future. I hope also that the Government will consider afresh the intricate freight network, which is underused or not used at all, that criss-crosses my constituency to connect current and former coalfields with power stations. As a

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potential freight network, it is unparalleled. For economic regeneration, it needs to be used not only for the locality and the region but as part of an expanding national freight network. That should be our hope for the future. Little work has been done on that recently, but I hope that the Government will consider it.

The issue of roads is a major one, not least following the Government's announcements on improvements to the A1M, with the removal of six roundabouts between the A1M in Yorkshire and Huntingdonshire. Three of them directly affect my constituency. In local jargon, they are called the "killing fields" because of the number of fatalities that have taken place on and around them. I urge the Government to consider reversing the previous Government's somewhat hidden policy of not allowing short-distance expansion of motorways. The A1M stops at Blyth roundabout, and I should like to see it expanded southwards to at least Newark.

It is absurd that one has to compete with cyclists on the A1, having left the A1M. Hon. Members may not be aware of the cycling heritage in my constituency. On Sunday, I opened a BMX track in Harworth, where the Tommy Simpson memorial museum is based. I hope that the Government will support the proposed new cycleway and racing track that we would like in Harworth as a true memorial to Tommy Simpson. I want to take cyclists off the A1 and put them somewhere safe for them and for motorists. The expansion of the A1M by at least 20 miles southwards would be a major step forward for the region. The number of accidents caused by tractors and others criss-crossing what was the Great North road is absurd. A slight reversal of policy at minimal cost would serve the Government well.

Many hon. Members may want road safety projects in their constituencies. If they want road humps, I have them to spare. In my constituency, Nottinghamshire county council seems to regard road humps in the same way as the mythical bus: we never see one until 100 come along at once. Manton estate has 900 road humps. Some cul-de-sacs have almost as many of them as houses, which shows the absurdity of the decisions. I am all for road humps that secure safety, especially that of young children, but not for those that almost become a BMX track or skateboard park in their own right due to their sheer number. I urge the Government to advise local authorities on road humps, to ensure a balance. Some of the road humps in my area should be removed to more needy parts of the east midlands.

The Chesterfield canal has been a major success for this and the previous Government, and I commend the investment in it. At this time of year, the issue on inland waterways is safety. The Government need to urge British Waterways more strongly, throughout the summer and especially the school holidays, to maintain vigilance and public education to ensure that the fatalities that have occurred over the past two summers on the Chesterfield canal in my constituency are not repeated. Young children dive in and attempt to swim in what can be very dangerous water, especially for them.

The issue of cars brings me to the issue of cable. One way to get cars off the road is to allow people to work from home. In the Bassetlaw constituency, however, it is rather difficult to work from home, because neither

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NTL nor Telewest has, in its wisdom, chosen to cable the area. I hope that policy on telecommunications and transport can be integrated to put pressure on those companies, which the Government have given lucrative franchises. In that way, we can ensure that my constituency is cabled so that many people—particularly those in rural villages who work from home or wish to do so—can have the benefits of cable, and can minimise the number of journeys that they make. Clearly, that is common sense in this technological age. However, it is also common sense that infrastructure requires investment if local people are to make proper use of it in their homes.

Finally, the east midlands has one airport and the north midlands needs a second airport. Finningley was an air base in Nottinghamshire until someone decided to change the boundaries and stick it in Yorkshire. We can live with that in north Nottinghamshire, but we want aircraft to take off and land at Finningley, as the Vulcan bombers did year on year.

When a new airport or an extension to an airport is proposed anywhere, we seem to see the NIMBYs. In my constituency, however, we have the YIMBYs—which stands for "yes in my backyard". We want an airport at Finningley. We want the runway to be used; we want new developments there; we want to see aeroplanes landing and taking off; and we want the job creation that will result.

I hope that the Government will consider the absurd public inquiry that is taking place. It is wanted not by anyone locally, but by competitors and, in particular, by Manchester airport, which seems to be trying to buy up the regional airport stock of Britain. This Government are a Government of competition, and competition among regional airports is essential. Finningley will increase competition, and I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that competition is good for the economy. I hope that all hon. Members from the east midlands will join together to support the case for a new regional airport to service the north of the east midlands in particular. I hope that we shall have that new airport at Finningley in the near future. That would benefit the east midlands and the country.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (in the Chair): Before I call the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), I make a plea to the Opposition spokesmen. This is a relatively narrow debate and remarks must relate to the east midlands, although I and my successor in the Chair will show some latitude.

11.58 am

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): I shall try to confine the vast majority of my comments to the east midlands.

I start by congratulating the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) on securing this important debate; he touched on many important transport issues. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) on coining the term YIMBYs. I wonder whether everyone who lives around the proposed airport site is quite as keen on the development as he appears to be.

The hon. Member for South Derbyshire touched on the subject of railways and improvements to the midland main line route to London, which Liberal

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Democrat Members support. However, until changes are made to the way in which Railtrack is run such improvements are likely to take place only in many years' time, not in the immediate future. At the moment, Railtrack seems more interested in pay-offs and pay awards than in building railways.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Ivanhoe, or National forest, line. The hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) pointed out that there was some opposition—or at least lack of support—from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to the scheme. The hon. Gentleman did not say where the funding for the scheme would come from; it would cost something of the order of £2 million a year over 25 years, which is the amount that the council spends on the concessionary fares scheme. Leicester county council would therefore have to make a substantial financial commitment, but it is unclear where the funds would come from. I am sure that there is no objection to the scheme in principle, but Opposition Members need to demonstrate an economically viable way of implementing it.

David Taylor : Two million pounds was the original figure for the scheme, which caused the then Liberal Democrat-Conservative county council to shy away from it, but the present partnership has identified a less costly option, which seems to have considerable potential. I hope that the county council will back it.

Tom Brake : I am pleased that a cheaper alternative has been found. I also hope that the council will, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, consider such associated issues as the environmental benefits of the scheme.

The hon. Member for South Derbyshire also mentioned East Midlands airport. I understand that the flight path goes over his constituency and also that it is one of the airports that has unrestricted night flying. We support the development of such regional airports, which can have a positive impact on regional economies. However, we are concerned about the increase in the number of short-haul and domestic flights, at the expense of more environmentally friendly means of travel such as railways. We do not want an unfettered expansion of airports, and we would like the Government to incentivise rail travel, to promote alternatives to damaging short-haul and domestic flights.

There have been no clear guidelines, standards or rules governing the future expansion of airport policy. A national policy is needed, and soon, so that those matters can be considered in the round rather than as individual proposals—whether that of the hon. Member for South Derbyshire or the on-going terminal 5 inquiry. If the hon. Member for Bassetlaw was referring to the Heathrow inquiry when he said that no one locally was in favour of it, I am surprised by that assertion and I disagree with it. That is not the view that I get. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene.

Mr. Bill O'Brien (in the Chair): I hope that we shall not have a discussion on terminal 5 at Heathrow. Will hon. Members stick to the agenda?

Tom Brake : Thank you, Mr. O'Brien. Perhaps we shall talk about the issue when the terminal is complete.

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The hon. Member for South Derbyshire also mentioned roads, including the M1 corridor multimodal transport study and the A38 multimodal transport study. I understand that at least three other such studies are on-going in the region. That demonstrates the need for the sustainable transport authority for which we are pushing, which would encompass and integrate all modes of transport. Such an organisation might do away with the need for such a proliferation of multimodal studies, which require time and effort to complete. Setting it up may remove the need to put effort into specific multimodal transport studies.

Hon. Members mentioned the Government's 10-year transport plan; the eye-catching headline figure of £180 billion is significant, but dissecting that figure shows that it is only £158 billion at current prices. If what will be spent on new projects, rather than on-going maintenance, is removed it leaves only £103 billion. The £48 billion investment from the private sector is not certain to be forthcoming, given the difficulties that are being experienced in respect of another project that requires massive private sector investment: the London underground. Dissecting the different parts of the £55 billion of committed investment over a 10-year period shows that the annual investment figure is not as great as the £180 billion starting figure suggests.

The hon. Member for South Derbyshire mentioned bus services in the east midlands, and I support his call for more bus services in the east midlands, London or anywhere else. Bus services can deliver improvements in public transport more quickly than any other mode of transport. An initial proposal for the Ivanhoe or National forest line was a complex bus service that would have delivered more frequent and more flexible services than the train alternative.

The hon. Member for South Derbyshire identified some important transport issues in the east midlands, which will not be resolved without fundamental changes to the way in which such matters are governed. That is why my party's alternative Queen's Speech proposed a Bill to establish a sustainable transport authority that would integrate the functions of the Strategic Rail Authority and the rail regulator and oversee buses, coaches and other modes of transport. It would remove from Railtrack its responsibility for operating the railways and put it in the hands of a not-for-profit organisation, which would be much better placed to deliver the transport improvements that the hon. Gentleman wants.

12.7 pm

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole): First, Mr. O'Brien, I must tell you that I have an interest in a family business concerned with building and road haulage, which is declared in the Register of Members' Interests.

I congratulate the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) on securing the debate and on the reasonable manner in which he presented his case. Listening to what he and other hon. Members said—my party is in listening mode at present—left me in no doubt about the importance of transport in the east midlands. I cannot help reflecting on the major economic changes in the coal and steel industries that have affected the region, which has done extremely well to adjust to those

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changes. However, integrated transport is the key to attracting jobs and growth in the region. The east midlands is a successful area, but we should not be complacent about it.

In the past four years, the Government have not delivered as much as they promised in respect of transport. A litre of petrol cost 59p in 1997; it is now 80p. The Government have taken about £9 billion from road users, much of which has gone to the Treasury rather than being spent on improving public transport, which many hon. Members consider to be a priority in their constituencies.

The 10-year plan is coming up to its first birthday but we still do not know how the £180 billion—if, indeed, it is £180 billion—will be spent. We need more details and more dates from the Government.

The Confederation of British Industry, the British Road Federation and others in the industry have spoken about the effect of congestion on the economy and on job creation. Transport must be a priority for the nation in the next few years.

Several constituency-specific issues were raised on which it will be more beneficial for the Minister to comment than the Opposition spokesman. However, I shall pick up one or two points. We rightly discussed regional airports, which are most important. Terminal 5 is relevant because the Government's new deal for transport promised a White Paper on regional airports, but they will not produce that document until the inquiry on terminal 5 has reported, which will probably be in the autumn. In the meantime, can the Minister give us some idea—

Mr. Bill O'Brien (in the Chair): Order. By discussing terminal 5 at Heathrow, the hon. Gentleman is straying away from the subject of transport in the east midlands. Will hon. Members stick to the subject, please.

Mr. Syms : Thank you, Mr. O'Brien.

Can the Minister tell us when the White Paper on a new deal for transport and regional airports will be published? It is relevant to the East Midlands airport and to those hon. Members who are interested in what happens in Finningley—there are many more besides the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann). We all know the impact that the regional airports have on the regions and it is important to have an overall strategy. The impact of competition was mentioned in the context of the Manchester airport company buying the East Midlands and Bournemouth airports and others.

We have heard much about multimodal studies, for which the previous Government will be known; the challenge now is whether they will be implemented and what impact they will have on the M1, the A38 and so on. Some important conclusions can be drawn from the studies, which need the Government's support and taxpayers' money.

I enjoyed hon. Members' contributions, especially that by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw. I have much sympathy with what he said about humps and bumps and what goes on in his constituency, and I look forward to hearing more from him in debates.

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The Government have raised from the road user a substantial amount of tax that has not been put back into the infrastructure. We look to the Government to deliver in the next three or four years; they must give transport in the east midlands a high priority.

12.12 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr. David Jamieson) : I join hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) on securing the debate and for the measured way in which he introduced it. His constituents, and those of other hon. Members with east midlands constituencies, have powerful advocates for transport in the region.

I shall refer to each contribution to the debate and then make some general points. In addition to the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire, there were good contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor), for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) and for Bassetlaw (John Mann). The Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), flew into the debate from Heathrow. At one time he seemed to be on a non-stopping train through the east midlands; he paused only occasionally. The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) spoke in his usual measured way. He is a good contributor to these debates but he, too, took the non-stopping train through the east midlands and got on to the subject of Heathrow. Bearing in mind your strictures, Mr. O'Brien, I shall avoid that matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire made the important point that highways—I shall use that term to consider both the road surface and pavements—are for all users, including pedestrians and cyclists, not just for cars. That point is at the heart of our policies. My hon. Friend also mentioned the need for information for people using public transport. Our proposals on the transport direct service include exciting proposals on the use of new technology to allow passengers to make more reasoned choices.

My hon. Friend also spoke, rightly, about pollution. The Government have made major inroads on that issue by encouraging the use of cleaner fuels by cars and particularly by heavy and diesel vehicles in urban areas. That is important in my hon. Friend's area. We are also encouraging the use of vehicles with smaller engines by reducing vehicle excise duty for vehicles under 1,549 cc from September.

I shall deal with the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire during the rest of my speech. I hope that I can even embrace some of the points made by his constituent, Matthew Smith, in asking us to do the will of the people.

The east midlands is a diverse region. It is not dissimilar to the areas that I represent in that it has not coalesced into a large urban sprawl. It is a series of habitations contained in a large rural area. Most of the urban areas are relatively self-contained, although the size of their travel-to-work areas continues to increase, partly as a consequence of the improved living standards that they enjoy. I take to heart what my hon.

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Friend said about our transport policies' informing our regeneration policies and creating new jobs and enterprise. Several hon. Members made that extremely important point.

The main north-south routes—the M1 and A1—are increasingly congested, and in urban areas the rush hour is lengthening. The proximity of settlements to the M1 corridor and the success of economic developments close to it have encouraged the use of private cars and road freight.

Several hon. Members mentioned the regional transport strategy and local transport plan. The integration of transport and land use planning is one key to developing a sustainable transport system. In the east midlands, development of the draft regional planning guidance is well under way, and I expect my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to issue the final version before the end of the year. The draft regional transport strategy, which forms part of the regional planning guidance, sets out a policy framework for transport in the east midlands, which is reflected in the development plans and local transport plans produced by local authorities.

In recent years, the resources awarded by Government to east midlands local authorities for transport have increased substantially. Since 1999, the level of the settlement has doubled year on year, and under the 10-year plan we expect a further doubling of annual resources by 2010. Notwithstanding the cynicism shown by Opposition Members, people on the ground have seen some of the benefits of those resources. That step-change in investment will enable good progress to be made with the implementation of the region's local transport plans.

Importantly, the funding will enable the east midlands' authorities to address the Government's 10-year plan target of halting the deterioration in local road conditions by 2004 and eliminating the maintenance backlog by 2010. Just before this debate started, I attended a conference in Euston at which we launched a new code of practice for surveyors in local authorities on improving the quality of road maintenance. I believe that the east midlands was represented there.

Several hon. Members mentioned multimodal studies. The content of the regional transport strategy and local transport plans will be informed by the three multimodal studies currently under way in the east midlands. They will identify options for addressing the transport problems of the M1, the A453 and the M42-A42 corridors. The outcomes are likely to amount to a substantial package of new infrastructure and service improvements across all modes of transport.

The Government recognise the urgency of completing the studies as quickly as possible. However, it is important that the studies examine all options in the open, inclusive way that was set out in the transport White Paper. The groups of interested parties that we have established to manage and direct the studies are working effectively, which is a testament to the high degree of partnership working in the east midlands. We

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expect the M1 and the A453 studies, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood asked, to report to the regional planning body next spring. The M42-A42 study will report in spring 2003.

The east midlands authorities have an impressive track record of success in bidding for funds under the rural bus challenge, which aims to stimulate innovation in the provision and promotion of rural public transport and improve quality and choice. My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln spoke about the success in her area. Indeed, Lincolnshire's winning Inter-Connect scheme has been nationally acclaimed as an exemplar for improving rural accessibility, while Leicester and Rutland's Cross County scheme is, at £1.6 million, the largest single award in the history of the competition. I took careful note of what my hon. Friend said about urban transport, especially the integration of buses with other services. Her points were well made and are relevant to other areas.

Building on the success of the rural bus challenge, we have launched an urban bus challenge to improve public transport in deprived urban areas. Some £46 million is being made available during the next three years, and bids have recently been invited. We look forward to receiving bids from the east midlands authorities for innovative and imaginative projects, and some of my hon. Friend's points might be met in that context.

The matter of rural motorists was raised by many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Poole. In many rural areas, there might be no practical alternative to the motor car for some people. The Government recognise the problems experienced by such motorists, with the price of fuel increasing because of the world price of crude oil. The hon. Gentleman will know that we scrapped the fuel duty escalator, which was introduced by the last Conservative Government; I am sure that the hon. Gentleman welcomes that.

In the previous Budget, the Chancellor also announced a package of measures that will benefit motorists in rural areas. That includes a reduction in duty on low sulphur fuels, a freeze on vehicle excise duty until next year and a raising of the small car threshold for vehicle excise duty on cars. The latter should benefit those in rural areas who have larger cars for travelling longer distances. The hon. Member for Poole should bear in mind the fact that evidence shows that the cost of car use is greater to people who live in an urban area than to those who live in a rural area. People in rural areas who have to travel longer distances, or those using smaller diesel vehicles, might also want to consider converting their vehicles to use liquid petroleum gas. It is considerably cheaper and does not have the pollutants that other fuels do.

There were many mentions of rail investment. In recent years, we have seen substantial levels of investment in the region's rail network. For example, Midland Mainline has doubled the frequency of trains on its routes, and during the next eight years there will be further investment of £230 million in more new trains and facilities, including a parkway station near the M1 at junction 24.

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Of course there is much more to be done, as several of my hon. Friends mentioned today. In particular, there is a growing desire among many local communities to be connected to the rail network. My hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Phil Hope), who has now returned to the Chamber, mentioned earlier that Midland Mainline and local authorities are investigating the potential for reconnecting Corby to the passenger rail network. That will be very good news to his constituents, and I am sure that he will continue to press all the relevant authorities on that matter.

Derbyshire county council and its partners are working with the Strategic Rail Authority to examine the potential for reopening the Matlock to Buxton route. No doubt that springs partly from the hugely successful Robin Hood line project, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood. It has made the former Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfield area much more accessible and has brought regeneration and other benefits in its wake. It was to facilitate such schemes that we introduced the rail passenger partnership fund. The proposal to extend the line to Ollerton is interesting and is, I understand, to be the subject of a bid to the rail passenger partnership fund by Nottinghamshire county council.

My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire mentioned the Ivanhoe line. Stage 2 of that project is an interesting proposal. His 13-year-old constituent, Matthew Smith, said that we must follow the will of the people. I hope that his constituent will see some progress by the time he takes his A-levels—or even before. I acknowledge the wider benefits that that scheme would bring, but the economic appraisal of the line shows that a prohibitively large operating subsidy would have to be met by Leicestershire county council. I know that my hon. Friend has met previous Ministers to discuss the way forward. Direct capital funding for rail projects is one of the funding options contemplated in the 10-year plan, and the options are being worked up by the Strategic Rail Authority whose strategic rail plan, to be

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published later this year, will set out the principles of investment support and describe the forms of funding that will be available for rail investment.

David Taylor : The projections of the deficit are linked closely to the county council's estimate of passenger revenue, which is thought by the new partnership to understate the actual position.

Mr. Jamieson : I thank my hon. Friend for that comment. Those who are assessing the project will obviously consider that aspect. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be the first to draw attention to it as an advocate on behalf of his constituents.

I shall now discuss problems with the existing rail network in the east midlands. The upgrades of the west coast and east coast main lines have implications. There is an issue about the extended journey time between London and Northampton on the west coast main line following the upgrade, but a working group of local authorities, Railtrack and the Strategic Rail Authority is identifying potential solutions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln discussed some problems with freight transport through her area. We, too, are aware of the problems that are caused in Lincoln and Spalding by the diversion of freight traffic from the east coast main line during its upgrade. I recognise the seriousness of the issue and its potential implications for retail and other activity in affected towns. The Strategic Rail Authority, with local partners, is already engaged in that issue and will help in working up prospective solutions and advising on the financial role that the Government could play.

In the short time left, I shall mention the East Midlands airport. I acknowledge that public concern is growing about the environmental impact of the airport and the surrounding developments on the local community. I understand that the airport has established a community fund to provide grants of up to £1,000 to soundproof homes affected by aircraft noise.

I have little time left and I know that I have not covered all the issues in detail. If hon. Members draw to my attention any points that they believe have not been covered in enough detail, I will certainly write to them. We have had a useful debate, conducted in a constructive atmosphere. I hope that my comments have been helpful.

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